Week 7: Mid Review


Single Scheme massing diagram.

Well Its that time again. Although – the whole show is getting much less stressful than it used to be. I don’t know it that means I’m actually getting better at this (fingers crossed) or if it just seems a little less important than it used to. Either way – boards are printed, models are made, essays are written. And its only midterm after all, its a constructive session – and so long as you have enough on the wall to have a discussion about then your good. Most of my stuff is already laid out – the site analysis, builsing study and masssing versions – I spent the weekend synthesising some of the aspects I liked from my versions and developing them in detail in 3D Max. I got some good renderings .Not quite as cool as I pictured them in my mind – but not bad. I think they give you a sense of the spaces and forms at least. We’ll see what everybody says when they are on the wall.


The first rendering here is a section cut through the elevated plaza on the Third Street side. The existing facade (on the right side) is retained and supported on a steel space frame with new full-height columns taking the load. The glass is removed and new floor plates are inserted at random heights forming  outdoor courtyards screened in by the old facade. A huge stair leads up from Third ave making the new courtyards into an extension of the street and providing space for pause and rest while still staying connected to the energy of Third Ave.


This next shot is of the housing on the Melrose Ave (west) side. Again, the existing facade is retained – but here so are the existing floor plates. The current structural system works just fine for uses like housing which have similkar loads and environmental exposure. So keep it. But again the facade becomes a screen – a new glass curtain wall is inserted behind the facade – creating a balcony for each unit inside of the facade. Lots of green stuff, the best spaces and light given over to common space and all that good stuff.


This section is cut accross the building north to south – here you can see the new lightwell on the right, housing units in the center, and the hallway on the left. Wrapping it all like a blanket is the Urban fram greenhouse – the greenhouse bleeds in and out of the common spaces of the housing zone and mix with large balconys on the south side. High-Intensity hydroponic growing takes place in the thin greenhouses with more traditional vegetable  / fruit growing on the large plates of the roof. Yeah – I know, theres a light problem with the housing. I’m workin’ on it.  Promise.


Typical Floor plan. Housing on the left and center, greenhouse on the bottom, public plaza and restaurant on the right.


The building levels and program zones.


Week 6

Pre Mid-Review Boad First Drafts. Still lots to do. On to 3D Max!



03.Massing Versisons.ai

Week 5


Structural Assembly Diagram

This past week was all about structure – I spent a good lot of time investigating my building’s materials and assemblies and researching how these types of buildings were put together. Its really fascinating – something about construction just gets me all sorts of jazzed up. I am still not able to actually get into my building – although even if they let me in I doubt they would let me tear open any walls to see how its actually built.  So I’m taking my best educated guess based on what I can see and how some other similar buildings are done. I guess I was a little off – I just finished meeting with Reid and he thinks my floor system is a little different than how I have drawn it – but not a major change.


Essentially – I have a ‘Cage’ system – sort of a hybrid between Cast-Iron, Masonry bearing walls, and Wrought Iron (Maybe Steel) girders with wood floor. Two long masonry walls run East-West providing lateral stability and support for floor girders. Inside is an array of Cast-Iron columns supporting Girders which run North-South. This is a bit non-standard (normally the Girder would run down the middle) and I need to investigate it a little more. Wood flooring tied together with splines spans the girders and supports a wood finish floor.


The other odd-ness is the column-to-beam connection which uses something called a ‘pintle’ – the girders actually sit on the columns with the next floor’s columns sitting on the girders (Normally the columns would run through and the girders would hang on the side). A small columns called a pintle bridges the gap and ties the girders together. Never heard of that before but I guess its pretty common in NYC during this era.


Structure Details


So for the newest version of my proposal I started with some of the best elemnts from my 24 version matrix and tried to reccombine them into a single scheme. This scheme combines Housing, a market, an urban farm, a restaurant and a public plaza. The front facade has been kept but is now a screen over the plaza and outdoor courtyards of the restaurant. The floor plates behind it are all  new and placed mid-window height to highlight the independant character of the new, inseted program and to heighten the sense of the facade as a screen. The entire ground level of the beuilding has been removed (it was gross anyway) and the street plane runs through the building – this is part of the market and will be small stalls of produce and famers-markety stuff. There is another level of more formal grocery underground. A long escalator or stair leads up to the public open space. Housing fills the bulk of the project – it is inserted into the existing structure and retains the current materials. The masonry wall on the south has been removed and consolidated in two large structural cores which serve the upper floors and read as big ‘feet’ on the market floor – holding up the building. On the top floors are two levels of Urban farm – feeding into the restaurant and the market below. The housing prioritizes open-communal space and the corridors will be integrated with the greenhouse which takes the place of the old south-facing masonry wall. The green spaces serve as a the links between programs – as the mixing spaces and as the ‘heart’ of the building.


Sort of three operations in regards to the original  – retain where program and exposure allow it (housing) – consolidate and increase efficiency where program demands (the south masonry wall into cores) – and replace where it doesn’t work anymore – the new floor plates on the Third Ave side – now outdoors and moved from their existing elevations – also very different structural forces at work.



Week 4

Massing Tests.ai

Short week this week, both because my crit day moved to wed(-1 day) but also because of the  holiday that they closed school on Monday. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly didn’t take the day off or anything, but I am amazingly less productive when I’m not working here. I spent the weekend producing a series of ‘tests’ – really quick massing sketches, based on a matrix of parameters. The rules are simple things like : ‘keep the existing fenestration’, or ‘ you can move floor plates.’ There are 5 of these simple rules governing mass, windows, floor plates, FAR and height. So the matrix is an array of possible combinations of these rules (ie: must keep the windows but CAN move the floorplates). At this point I’ve got 24 quick versions – 12 for an interior renovation and 12 for if I tore down the existing building and built something brand new. They all use a comnination of the same 4 program elelments: housing, market, restaurant and greenhouse.

It was an interesting exercise – certainly got me to loosen up and produce for a bit. I’m not quite sure how to evaluate them now though. I mean, I know I could – lets say, bring them all into Ecotect and measure the sunlight on the greenhouse floorplates – that would certainly eliminate some of them pretty quickly. But that would take a long time and I kind of know which ones won’t work – so I’m holding off on that for now. But it might come to that anyway, part of this theis is supposed to be about the process after all and about usign digital simulation tools to inform the design decision making process. So even though I think I know which schemes would be best for somthing like greenhouse sunlight – I’d probably be surprised if I actually ran the simulations.

But I also have to find some metric to test the other programs against. I suppose it could be pretty straightforward Square-footages and such. But I’m trying to come up with something better. Either way, I have to present this all today. We’ll see what everyone has to say about it. I also spent some time re-writing my Thesis statement, trying to update it and focus it given the work I’ve done since the last draft. It’s getting there. Still needs . . .  what’s the word? Ohh – yeah  . . . editing.

Massing Tests.ai

Revised Thesis Statement:

Central to this project is the supposition that the development of a dense, layered urbanism with dynamic, livable neighborhoods can be supported and even instigated by small and medium scale projects. These buildings, if structured correctly, are every bit as infrastructural as any transit, water or power system. These buildings must be productive in the physical sense (they produce energy, water, food, etc…) but they must also be productive in another sense; they must actively help to produce the community around them, and support the growth of their neighborhoods without eliminating the specific histories which give character and identity to these communities. These projects are conceived as a form of urban-acupuncture: identifying openings, exploiting existing networks and seeking to stimulate entire systems of activity through small, targeted interventions. These buildings will not replace existing uses, but will layer new uses and treatments onto the old, intensifying existing dynamics where appropriate, and mitigating others. A layering of use, material and structure will lead to buildings of complexity and flexibility beyond the sum of its parts, much like the urban fabric they are embedded in.

Employing these concepts, a site in the ‘HUB’ neighborhood of the South Bronx was identified as a possible site for intervention. This neighborhood currently exists on the edge between development and stagnation; after many years of stasis the area has seen a bit of a renaissance lately, but it is in jeopardy of dissipating unless the necessary social infrastructures are put in place. The HUB is the historic retail center of the South Bronx, and continues that tradition today with a heavy concentration of clothing, home-goods and furniture stores, as well as other storefront retail. During the first half of the 20th century, this area was also home to many large department stores, theaters and banks, but almost all of those institutions have moved away from the area, leaving virtually every large building vacant above the first floor.

This vacancy is beginning to disappear, however, as over the last few years development has swarmed to this area, with over 2,000 new residential units being built recently, and another 2,500 scheduled for completion soon. But, importantly, this new use as a residential neighborhood will only succeed if certain structures are developed. Specifically, projects which support health and nutrition, as well as a greater degree of local control and self-sufficiency are important to the long-term success of this new neighborhood.

Like many low-income and minority neighborhoods, this population has very limited access to non-processed food. No large grocery exists within walking distance of the HUB, with the primary source of groceries being a handful of small specialty shops and the ubiquitous corner bodega – supplemented with fast food restaurants. In addition, the HUB area is significantly lacking in public open space, and as a result the area has an unfortunate homogeneity to its rhythms. There is only once pace here, that of moving through.

This project proposes the development of a large grocery and market at the site of the Danice building, with the integration of public open space fronting Third Avenue, a large non-fast food restaurant and a medium-sized residential complex. These uses will be joined around an urban-farm greenhouse which will produce fresh food for the restaurant and market, and will have open green space which can be utilized by the residents and community members. Solar power generation and water collecting green-roofs will also be integrated into the project, making the building productive in social, as well as material terms.


Week 3

This week I spent a big chunk of time modeling the existing building and starting to analyze some of the conditions in a bit more detail. I developed a 3D model based on my research and site photos and used that to produce a pretty good sized physical model as well as a couple different versions of the digi-model for use in analysis programs (Ecotect especially). I probably (well, ok, definitely) spent too much time modeling and drawing these existing components and not enough time working on my new program and building massing. I guess I’m a bit hesitant to start really jumping into it – but there isn’t much left to map now so I don’t have much choice – its time to start making something new out of it.

But I kind of had to go through the process of pulling the building apart piece by piece and getting a better handle on it – kind of like those football coaches who make the players walk around all day every day carrying the ball – eventually it’ll just become a part of you and you know it unconsciously – so I’m hoping if I sleep with this building under my pillow long enough I’ll really get to know it in that way. Also, its just fun to model stuff.


The Existing Building. Sketchup model.


Local site massing.

I built the 3D model in a way that allowed me to export it pretty quickly to a laser-cut model. It is good to have the physical model now that I can spin around and mess with.




1/8th inch scale museum board. Laser Cut.

I also started analyzing the building and site in Ecotect. The site is incredibly exposed almost all day long, a little bit of shade from the late afternoon sun but other than that there isn’t much help from anybody nearby. So solar shading is going to have to be an important part of the facade. The daylight factor for the interior spaces is a little odd and I’m not sure if I’m getting the right numbers – I cam getting 2% coverage across the entire floor plate with spikes of up to 20% right at the big windows on the east and west. Kind of high I think, but it might be close – those are some big windows after all.


Site Overshadowing.


Floorplate Daylight Factor.



The program right now is a new grocery/market with a large restaurant and housing tower integrated with a greenhouse/ open-space which would produce fresh food for use in the restaurant and market, as well as serve as open space for the housing units. Its not worked out. Not by a long shot. But its a place to start.


Program spatial requirements.


first Massing.

Week 2

My charge this week was to find out as much as possible about both the neighborhood (the HUB) and my building. So I first spent a day up at the Bronx DOB sifting through all  the paperwork they have pertaining to my building. I’m not gonna lie – it was a pretty intense place – and when you go to access records they just hand you a stack of paper ten feet tall and tell you to come back when your done. There isn’t anywhere to go spread out – so I sat myself down in the elevator lobby and tried to record as much as possible by drawing and photographing. There was some really interesting stuff mixed in amongst all the hundreds of elevator inspection slips. As near as I can tell the building was built in 1896 – that’s the earliest building permit I could find – and it was built as a Blumstein’s Dept store. Interestingly, it also included a theater on the 2nd floor on the Third Ave side – probably a vaudeville style show which was pretty prevalent in this area during this period. After only about 20 years it was converted into a Sachs Quality Store which it stayed as until the late 60’s / early 70’s. It was taken over by a bank for a short time, then a furniture store and some other retail mixed in with periods of vacancy throughout the last 30 years or so.

Unfortunately I still haven’t been able to find much on the elevations or the history of the facade – not much in the way of photos or anything. The earliest images I can find are only from 1954 – and by then the building was already pretty much in its current configuration. So I’ll keep looking – but I’m not sure how much more I’ll be able to find.


In addition to the specific building, I’ve also been researching the HUB neighborhood. I plotted several dynamics separately and then layered them up, trying to pull out any discernible patterns or logic in the development. Using GIS data I plotted things like population, density, small and large food stores, topography, proposed residential development and some other stuff. I really wish I had access to the NYC’s PLUOTO map – there is sooooo much data that has been collected on all of these parcels that I’m sure I could map some great stuff – but they are super expensive, so this is all making due with the data I can get for free. Someday maybe. (there are a bunch more maps added to the  ‘SITE’ tab now)


Regardless, I certainly didn’t discover anything earth shattering – population centers are concentrated in the public housing zones which form a ring around the edge of the South Bronx – leaving the center (the HUB) largely unoccupied – this is also the result of the zoning of course. When the roads are plotted against the topography it is pretty easily to see how they developed. The tips of two of the three Bronx ridges can be seen in these maps – the ridges run north to south and were glacially formed. Westchester and 149th (the main east-west roads) run through a gap in the center ridge and the whole of the HUB sits on the east slope of a large hill which is part of the westernmost ridge. Third Ave’s curve skirts the bottom of the hill, sticking to the flat-land between the ridges. All pretty straightforward.


The economic development of the area is interesting though – while the current population centers are set up in a ring around the HUB, there is a huge amount of proposed development which  is building mixed-use housing right along Third Ave. The idea, I guess, is to turn the HUB into a real neighborhood – right now it functions as a specialty shopping area (clothing, furniture, housewares, etc) but doesn’t really have the infrastructure to support day-to-day living; things like a large grocery, restaurants and the like.

So there is a clear need to develop the sorts of services that a fully-functioning Urban neighborhood depends on – but I just am not sure about this whole mode of mapping. I feel like I do this for every project – map these similar dynamics, determine whats missing, and fill it in – find the square hole and fill it with the square peg. So I’m resistant to the idea of simple plugging the gap. But at the same time, how can this project expect to engage the neighborhood and create development without trying to fix the elements which are demonstrably deficient about the area. But, when you say things like – grocery, market and retail – they seem a bit too simplistic to really push the architecture. What I’d like to do is develop an alternative model of something like a market, one which would fill the gap in the neighborhood but would do more than that  – would participate in the shaping of a new form of community – not simply reproduce the same old dynamics. Similar to this interesting op-ed . . .


Next on the list however is to finish developing the existing conditions digital model. I modeled the terrain and the immediate neighborhood, but I have to model the building in more detail so I can begin to produce some solar analysis and shading diagrams. I’ll also use the digital model to pump out a quick laser-cut model.


This site is designed to replace the traditional Thesis research book by aggregating precedents, links, readings, site and programatic research and anything else that seems relevant in a place where I can not only keep them all organized, but make it all easily accessible to anyone who’s interested. This will be a place where  I can record my design process, post updates on the status of my thesis project, and make all the the research I’m doing which will underpin my thesis available. Right now the site is split into several sections. “Site” will include all my preliminary site research, interesting programatic mappings and musings, and some other neighborhood info. ‘I’m Looking at’ and ‘I’m Reading’ are digital archives of influential readings and interesting built projects which seem relevant to my project. The ‘Thesis’ page will get broken up as I develop the project but for now it includes my basic thesis proposition.

Feel free to shoot me an email  if you have any questions.

Ed at maye41@newschool.edu