Selected Undergraduate Design Studio Projects--Design IV, Fall 2013

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Fall 2013

Professor Kevin Bone, Associate Professor Tulay Atak, Instructor Teddy Kofman, Instructor Sophia Krimizi, and Professor Sean Sculley

URBAN TERRITORIES | Landscape, Infrastructure, Architecture

The fall 2013 Forth Year Studio introduced students to urban design by investigating the possibility of integrating architecture, landscape, ecology and infrastructure. Based on the premise that the emerging urban condition transcends the limitations of traditional definitions of these disciplines, the studio sought for design propositions that offer strategies for integration. Establishing constructive forms of exchange between analytical research and design, the studio pursued an exploration and re-imagining of a site that included an archetype of modern urbanism, transitional zones occupied by arterial transit routes, abandoned industrial corridors and spaces that defy definition. These territories, common to many aging post-industrial cities, remain under-utilized and resist becoming part of the city fabric. The work of the studio sought to cultivate and employ different scenarios for the proposed site while examining diverse design approaches of urban transformation. In rethinking the role and relationship between landscape, ecology, infrastructure and architecture, the studio examined the pertinent socio-cultural and urban themes while critically appropriating environmental factors as an integral part of the design process. This implies thinking and designing on a diversity of scales, and taking into consideration an approach where different scales reside in one another. 

The studio focused on an area at the edge of the Harlem River in Kingsbridge Heights. Sitting on a steep topographical drop, the area is fractured by the multiple lanes of the William Francis Deegan Expressway, four sets of active and inactive railroad tracks and industrial brownfields. The urban tissue is further fragmented by the convergence of diverse morphologies. Hence, topography, infrastructure and urban morphology all play roles in severing the waterfront from urban life. By considering specific edge conditions, the studio was able to explore the possibilities of connection while questioning why and how to strategize connections in an urban context. The rationale for these connections expanded from a desire to reconnect the city to its geographical roots, to propositions for changing land use and facilitate transitions to new models of urban structure.

The site chosen for study was located on the eastern upland banks of the Harlem River—a body of water that has been radically transformed through the industrial era. Historically it was only a small stream course consisting of mostly tidal flats and wetlands. The selected site had very specific geophysical, cultural and historical attributes that impacted the proposed architectural actions. Around 1920, the estuaries of upper Manhattan were dredged out, straightened, re-mapped and referred to as the Harlem River Ship Channel. The stream course was altered and the shore likewise has undergone many changes, from farmland then dockyard and now a lost remnant belonging to industrial neglect. It is also a place that nature, however tenuously, has begun to re-colonize.

The studio addressed a twofold program connecting the Heights with the water, while accommodating, defining and programming a Harlem River center for urban agrarian culture. Both programmatic segments are interwoven with each other, proposing the inhabitation of that transition between the water and the city. The program involved the integration of productive landscape, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, transportation, and all other appropriate ideas of urban life. The center for urban agrarian culture imagined urban agriculture in this specific context, as a new evolving model of human settlement. Projects sought to determine the activities that could take place on site in their own terms and develop programmatic scenarios of occupation and connection. 



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