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.


// Urban Acupuncture* //

Unlike the overly simplified view of the city as a static composition with the planner as the figure in charge . . . the emergent metropolis is a thick, living mat of accumulated patches and layered systems . . . [We] look for opportunities to simply engage the dynamics of the city on their own terms, to be a player, an agent continually looking for ways to make a difference.
-James Corner, Lanscape Urbanism

“I call a tactic, on the other hand, a calculus which cannot count on a ‘proper’, nor thus on a borderline distinguishing the other as a visible totality.” ‘Many everyday practices are tactical in charcter . . . victories of the weak over the strong; clever tricks, knowing how to get away with things, maneuvers, polymorphic simulations, joyful discoveries . . .”
– Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life

. . . new forms and new ways of life do not replace so much as supplement existing forms and rituals, augmenting the range of expereience avaialble to the city’s inhabitants.
– Jacqueline Tatom, Urban Highways and the Reluctant Public Realm

Design, as a profession and creative endeavor, is recast to resist closure and univalent expertise. The designer, as a strategist conducting this advocacy process, understands the future as being under perpetual construction.
-Alan Berger, Drosscape

*Michiel van Raaij’s term (http://www.eikongraphia.com/)

// Reconstruction //


Santa Caterina Market deconstruction/construction

“Everything is from the same period, what’s being done now and what we’ve found is about having respect for people who did the same job as we do one hundred, two hundred, a thousand years ago.” –Enric Miralles on the renovation of the Mercat Santa Caterina Market

“. . . the sides of the [old] building blocks have been fi lled with new building mass. At the corners the tension between the new, modern, object-like architecture and the old, façade architecture culminates. Here, the old façade turns into a screen. At some corners the screen becomes transparent, exposing the balconies behind. Old and new literally overlap.” -Michiel van Raaij on the Mercat Santa Caterina Market


Santa Caterina Neighborhood, Photo by Michiel van Raaij

Tactical Intervention is the most effective mode of engagement with the Urban -To participate effectively in the creation of the Urban Condition, new architecture must layer uses and artifacts on its site, while recognizing those which came before (and will come later)


Stair treads – new on old in Scarpa’s Querini Stampalis

// The Facade //


Danice Building, West Facade (Along Third Avenue)

The Facade Wall is a key urban architectural event and possible space of intervention –

it is a place of contention and negotiation between completing demands: the building and the city, the building and the environment, the building and the body.


-Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

// BIM //

This Thesis will be concerned with not only the final product, but the process by which that work is designed ass well. BIM (Building Information Model) technologies and digital modeling software in general opens up many new avenues for design process. The feedback mechanisms, visualization methods, the ability to version test cases quickly and easily and the possibilities of ‘proto-building’ allow radically new design methods -0nes which can create within the designers a fundimentally new form of knowledge of their work – or, rather, a very old form of knowledge – craft.

“To build the model, one cannot draw lines that merely represent profiles; one must build the model by thinking in terms of material and configuration . . .  In this solid, element based model, lines mean very little. The real stuff with which we build, materiality and method of assembly, returns to the architect’s and the engineers speheres of speculation.”
-Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake, The Loblolly House


“Dr. Andrew Marsh of Square One Research (developer of Ecotect) has coined the phrase performative design to describe the process, whereby analysis, evaluation and refinement of the proposed building’s performance is an integral part of the design process.”
-Sid Thoo, Interoperability and Sustainable Design


“The Institutional, typological, economic, contractual, and regulatory systems . . . all converge on the actual shape of the buildings: the processes through which drawings are made, brick is put upon brick, concrete poured into formwork, windows installed in a wall. These processes and the built result are given their character by those systems: and in the end the systems determine the extent to which the making of the building is the product of craftsmanship, considered in a broad and modern sense.”
– Howard Davis (The Culture of Building)

According to Davis, the Craft relationship  – craft as a way of knowing – requires three conditions:

1. A sense of responsibility toward the artifact

2. Immediate feedback from the emerging reality of what is being made, as it is being made.

3. The ability to make judgements about how tools are applied to the artifact, as a result of this feedback.

BIM and digital modeling technologies allow architects to re-engage with the actual stuff of building, and thereby to radically alter their understanding of the their designs.




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