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.



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