Spanning over 180 acres, Sunnyside Yard is the only contiguous, centrally-located, transit-accessible site of its size remaining in New York City, making it a precious resource in the City’s long term plan to provide affordable housing for New Yorkers. At the same time, as one of the busiest passenger rail facilities in North America, the Yard is a critical piece of national rail infrastructure, meaning any deck over Sunnyside Yard must support the city above, while seamlessly integrating with the daily rail operations below.
Lead by the Practice of Architecture and Urbanism for Amtrak, the City of New York and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, The Sunnyside Yard Master Plan brought together the disciplinary expertise of 14 different consultant firms, the technical exigencies required by Amtrak and MTA’s engineers and critical input from a robust community engagement process to create a long term planning framework to guide development and infrastructure investment in the Yard for decades to come. In addition to architects, urban designers and planners, the team included stakeholder engagement experts; engineers specializing in rail, structures, geotechnical analysis, environmental planning and transportation; landscape architects; researchers who study the future of urban environments; finance specialists including experts in modeling, market analysis, cost estimation, risk analysis, and public finance; and legal advisors specializing in land use. As project manager of the design and engineering teams Skylar was responsible for organizing the integration of work from the consultant team and served as the lead author and editor for the final planning documents.
The team conducted a technical analysis of the yard—identifying key opportunities and constraints—in parallel with a robust stakeholder engagement outreach effort that included large public meetings, smaller focused workshops, digital town-halls, and group and one-on-one interviews. The resulting plan answers six pressing “needs” that were identified during the outreach process: creating open space and social infrastructure like schools, libraries and clinics; improving transportation and mobility; building truly affordable housing; creating a range of 21st century jobs, and workforce development opportunities; setting new standards for sustainable and resilient growth that embraces innovative green building technologies; and perhaps most importantly, “keeping it Queens,” ensuring that the new development is in character with the surrounding neighborhoods and maintains the borough’s prized vibrance and diversity. The plan is anchored by a central greenway lined with social infrastructure; the spine in a network of neighborhood-scale parks across the site that will serve both the new residents and workers on the Yard and the surrounding neighborhoods alike.
A multi-layered transportation strategy envisions streets that prioritize pedestrians and quality of life over vehicles and places the new development in the context of background growth in Western Queens so that system-wide improvements can work hand in glove with new onsite interventions like the potential for a Bus Rapid Transit line that would connect the new development with Manhattan as well as neighborhoods to the east. Block-sizes were developed to respond to the scales of surrounding neighborhoods while accommodating many different program types and configurations, allowing for future development to be pursued by a range of both for-profit and non-profit developers rather than a single massive entity. Rigorous engineering generated a deck that was substantially lower than previous studies, enabling smooth intersections with the existing bridges that cross the yard. Streets that currently dead-end into the Yard are imaged as additional access points for pedestrians. While the overall program is flexible in terms of location and quantities, the plan calls for 100% affordable housing; a mix of office, retail, light-manufacturing and institutional programs; and lays out an armature of public goods to support these uses.
Although realizing the comprehensive master plan for the entire site will take decades and require substantial funding, the team has identified a series of early investments that respond to pressing community needs and could be implemented in the near term. The final master plan document was released in March 2020 as a framework for future community planning.
PAU was commissioned by Brandywine Realty Trust in collaboration with Drexel University to design two mixed-use towers adjacent to 30th Street Station along JFK Boulevard. Collectively entitled JFK Towers, the two buildings house over 1.5 million square feet of transit-oriented office, residential and retail space framing a new one-acre public open space entitled High Line Plaza and designed by landscape architecture firm SWA Balsley. JFK Towers mark the first phase of the Schuylkill Yards project, a 14-acre redevelopment of the vast network of underutilized sites located between Center City and University City along the reimagined banks of the Schuylkill River. Schuylkill Yards is within a twenty minute walk of some of the nation’s finest academic, cultural, medical, municipal, open space and business resources, all centered on Philadelphia’s historic 30th Street Station, a hub for SEPTA commuter trains as well as the heart of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
At the beginning of the PAU's engagement, Skylar lead a feasibility study assessing the placement of various combinations of programs; taking a deep dive into Philadelphia's zoning and developing parametric zoning analysis tools that the design team then used in the subsequent phases of the design process; and sorting out the intricacies of the legal relationship between the JFK Towers sites and the railroad right of way to the north and east in coordination with Brandywine's land use council. Skylar also lead a quick design exploration of a hypothetical transit pavilion for the site, built on a deck above active rail tracks, and helped the outreach and negotiation with regional Amtrak officials.
East New York is a neighborhood of Brooklyn undergoing vast changes. With large numbers of new construction permits being granted regularly, opportunity abounds as does worry over gentrification, displacement, and transit access. For longtime residents of the area, the Christian Cultural Center, a pillar of worship, learning, and social service, has provided a sense of stability as their neighborhood transforms around them. For the CCC’s leader, Reverend A. R. Bernard, it is important not only to give back to the neighborhood, but to make sure that any new growth is sustainable and beneficial to current residents.
The Gotham Organization and PAU are working with Reverend Bernard to create an equitable community and cultural hub for this rapidly changing part of Brooklyn. The 11-acre site, currently occupied by the church and a surface parking lot, will be reconceived with a performing arts center, school, and social services joining the existing Christian Cultural Center to form the cultural heart of the campus. A new interior street lined with quality, income-based housing for the local community will connect to extensions of the surrounding street grid to tie the development to its context. This holistic program outlines a new model neighborhood that balances density through a range of building typologies and heights with a pedestrian, communal scale of living.
Residential towers will provide 2,100 income-based apartments, with space for a host of community facilities at the ground level. The new school will serve the neighborhood, and the performing arts center will provide a much-needed venue for existing East New York cultural organizations, offering a variety of programming. Along the interior street, two-story maisonettes with front stoops will back up against the residential towers; the avenue sides of the towers will be lined with ground-level space for a variety of retailers, including a fresh-food grocery store and small shops to meet community needs. A wide piazza at the corner of Flatlands and Louisiana Avenues welcomes the public into the campus. These services and spaces combine to create a collaborative, accessible “urban village” for longtime residents as well as new members of the neighborhood.
Skylar has been the day-to-day team leader on this project since the early concept phases, conducting an iterative site planning and massing study, meeting regularly with the Gotham Organization and Reverend Bernard, leading the production of materials for the on-going entitlement process with the New York City Department of City Planning, and attending and helping to organize community outreach and public hearings.
Situated in an industrial zone along the Gowanus canal in Brooklyn, this project responds directly to changes in 21st century urban life: a new pattern of urbanity where people increasingly live and work across the territory of the city rather than uniformly commuting to centrally located, mono-use central business districts. With its location two blocks from the Carroll Street F-stop, the site will provide essential access to innovation hubs at Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, SoHo and the Flatiron district and promote walk-to-work office space for residents of Gowanus, Carrol Gardens, Red Hook, Cobble Hill and Park Slope. Originally zoned for low density, heavy manufacturing uses, Gowanus is rich in history and visual character, but its outdated zoning requirements make it a challenge to design for the city’s current and future workforce needs.
Parallel to a city-led neighborhood framework which seeks to transform Gowanus into a forward-looking, truly mixed-use neighborhood, PAU is guiding the project through a rezoning effort, or ULURP, that will enable easily subdivided creative commercial spaces that have ample natural light and are geared toward a critical mass of small-scale, innovative office tenants; remove an antiquated parking requirement that would otherwise drastically increase project cost and flood vulnerability in this low lying area; and allow for a critically needed educational use in the form of a specialized STEAM high school. Designed for Two Trees Management, the building’s more than 260,000 SF of leasable office space will bring scores of new jobs to the Gowanus, while the high school and small-scale retail spaces activate the surrounding streets and bring much needed services and educational opportunity to local residents and office workers alike.
PAU’s design seeks to create cross-pollination between the high school at the base of the building and the creative offices that occupy the floors above. The potential for such interactions will be encouraged through the building section, which promotes visual connections between the programs through a common skylight atrium. The massing strategy cants the building’s three street-facing facades inward at the ground level, widening the sidewalks for the new office workers and students, expanding out to the largest office floors, and then back in again on higher floors, creating a variety of floorplate sizes while improving daylight and sightlines for the surrounding streets.
Honoring the neighborhood’s industrial legacy, the building’s scale will be modulated by a high bay façade evocative of the neighboring factories. The use of hand-laid red brick will further situate the building in its historical context despite a dynamic, contemporary form. The result is a building that respects the current street wall on neighboring side streets, announces itself in forward-looking architectural form on Hoyt, while simultaneously providing the types of space necessary for contemporary learning and working.
Skylar has been involved with this project since its conception, helping the team with zoning analysis, developing parametric tools to help study how handlaid brick screens might interact with the building's sculptural form, attending multiple rounds of engagement with the New York City Department of City Planning, and advising the client on how the the project fits within the recently released Gowanus Framework Plan.
Lotus Equity Group engaged PAU to develop the master plan for the site previously occupied by the 8-acre Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, in downtown Newark, and to design one of the three buildings that will occupy the property. Positioned minutes from Broad Street Station and, therefore, Midtown Manhattan, the property sits at the nexus between the Passaic River and Branch Brook Park; between the central business district, home to the headquarters of Audible and Prudential, among others, and the nearby diverse residential neighborhoods, like the Ironbound.
All of these factors informed PAU’s pedestrian-focused master plan, which creates a sequence of public spaces linking Broad Street Station to the future Newark Riverfront Park. The project site is centered around a 1.5-acre piazza that shares its triangular geometry with Military Park and Washington Park in central Newark. Arranging the development around this public passage ties the site into its surroundings and provides space for the cultural and recreational uses that will define its sense of place, grounding the other new transit-oriented mixed-use programs. The proposed network of public spaces aspires to ignite a new pedestrian ethos in Newark’s burgeoning downtown community.
Skylar was a team member for the master plan in its earliest phases, studying the site context, carrying out massing studies, compiling local, regional and national office space precedents and helping the team understand how the project fit within Newark's zoning regime.
Next Door Creative Offices is a response to the lack of studio work space in Austin for artists and creative professionals. Pollen Architecture & Design in Austin, TX approached this project as an opportunity to provide studio workspace with the features that they admire in repurposed industrial loft buildings; high ceilings, abundant natural light and sturdy materials. We adapted this building type to a residential neighborhood, keeping the scale relatively small and incorporating landscape areas. Buildings wrap the perimeter of the block, enclosing gardens on the interior, with a network of rain gardens winding through. These outdoor areas provide places for people to relax and cross paths. The circulation areas were developed as places where people can get to know each other; workspaces either have doors opening directly onto the sidewalk, like the stoops of neighboring houses, or onto balcony walkways and stairs looking over garden areas.
Skylar served as a combined designer-analyst for Pollen on the earliest phases of Next Door, its first in-house design/development project. In that capacity he conducted market analysis, built a detailed pro-forma that leveraged the principals’ sweat-equity and walked the firm through using these tools to help evaluate schematic massing strategies. Doing development work in a design firm setting provided a chance to practice a philosophy in which budgetary concerns that would normally lead to cost cutting and site “maximization” are instead placed in dialogue with a constellation of other formal drivers.
Pollen Architecture & Design designed this pair of houses to take advantage of a corner lot; providing private outdoor space and separate entries for two families on one lot. The houses are ‘good neighbors,’ keeping with the scale and language of houses in this older east Austin neighborhood. The floorplans are open, to make compact spaces feel more generous, and take advantage of careful placement of windows for best light and views.
Skylar produced the final presentation and marketing drawings for this project that were used until final photograph could be commissioned.
Pollen Architecture & Design was commissioned to design this pool and poolhouse in west Austin after an enormous live oak tree split in two in the clients’ backyard. Suddenly they had a huge hole in the ground, and lost all the tree canopy providing shade and privacy from the neighbors. Pollen designed an open gable roof to throw shade on the outdoor living space and enclose a cabana, making the backyard an outdoor room. The asymmetrical peak is on access with views from the main living space in the back.
Skylar was assisted principal Elizabeth Alford with schematic design for this project, producing massing options, conducting sun studies and making comparative drawings to help the client understand the impact of different sized iterations of the design.
Skylar Bisom-Rapp is a Senior Associate at Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) where he has worked on projects ranging from storefront cultural spaces to neighborhood-scale masterplans. His work is informed by the belief that design and development are both inherently synthetic disciplines and must be approached holistically, with an eye towards context in the broadest sense: local culture, politics, history, social justice and the environment.
At PAU, Skylar project managed the design and engineering teams for the 180 acre Sunnyside Yard Master Plan in Queens, NY, leading the integration of work from 14 different sub-consultants and serving as the lead author and editor for the final planning documents. His other work at PAU has included a programming exercise for the planned Lowline underground park on the Lower East Side, analysis of the East Midtown Rezoning’s effects on mid-block development sites as well as master planning and feasibility studies for large-scale, mixed-use projects such as a 2,000 unit affordable housing project in East New York and a 1.5 million SF transit oriented, laboratory, office and residential development in Philadelphia.
Skylar has also participated in PAU’s advocacy work, developing design concepts, coordinating with transportation engineers and leading the animation and illustration team that collaborated with New York Times columnist, Farhad Manjoo on his much-discussed editorial "I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing" as well as providing demographic analysis for a letter to Mayor de Blasio about spaces of public protest.
Skylar was formerly a member of the adjunct faculty at Columbia University’s Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation where he taught courses with PAU founder Vishaan Chakrabarti including a seminar on theories of city form and an interdisciplinary workshop on urban development. Skylar is also an alumnus of GSAPP, where he received dual masters degrees in Architecture and Real Estate Development, with a coursework emphasis on affordable housing finance and policy. Skylar was the inaugural recipient of the Glascock and van Buren Graduate Fellowship at Columbia’s Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) where he worked under then Research Director Jesse Keenan in support of CURE publications, including Director Keenan’s own work on climate change adaptation in the commercial real estate industry. His projects at Columbia have been published in Abstract, the school’s anthology of student work, and were recognized with the CURE Award for Transdisciplinary Work and the William Kinne Traveling Fellowship. Skylar also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture with High Honors from the University of California, Berkeley. Skylar's scholarly work focusses on architecture fits within larger political economic structures including a paper on how the flexibility of the legal definition of property ownership can benefit socially conscious architects that was published in the fifth issue of the Applied Research Practices in Architecture Journal.
Previously, Skylar has worked for Pollen Architecture & Design in Austin, Texas on a 25,000SF creative office project, the firm’s first attempt at development work, with Janette Kim and Erik Carver on their book, The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform and at Estudio Teddy Cruz.
ADVANCED RESEARCH PRACTICES IN ARCHITECTURE JOURNAL
issue 05: conflicts of interest // SPRING 2018
Escaping the false binary between public and private property regimes.
“Property is conflict,” insist legal theorists Michael Heller and Hanoch Dagan. They argue that the concept of property rights is, at its core, the management of conflicts between people and conflicts of interest. While this theoretical lens is clearly articulated in legal scholarship, it has long been an unstated theme in design and planning discourses. For at least two centuries, the trope of spatial exploitation and the exclusion of the working classes in cities under private-property systems has been a hallmark of progressive urban thought, from Frederick Engels and Jacob Riis to Catherine Bauer and Lewis Mumford. The argument is a familiar one: left unchecked, private land leads to the tyranny of rent-seeking; while the state, on the other hand, is an organ of reform, improving the lives of urbanites through regulation and public development. This simple premise belies the complications which flow from it; an equally familiar set of questions and entanglements related to the development of the urban environment. Who defines the public good? How do we combat decades of neglect in public projects? How do we address the legacy of racial violence historically accompanying these types of interventions that has soured government-led urban development in both policy circles and public imagination and has seeded mistrust in communities that need them most? Even the more recent promise of public-private partnerships and market-based solutions (bolstered by subsidies and vouchers) is plagued by chronic underfunding, skewed towards private interest, and marked by discriminatory rental practices and the quagmire politics of NIMBYism.
Considering the conflicts of urban development today, all of this may be moot. Not only is state-financed acquisition and development of public land increasingly unimaginable in a country suffering from laissez-faire ideological dogmatism and seemingly insurmountable legislative paralysis, but private-property solutions remain just as elusive. If contemporary urban practitioners and theorists want to address what is urgent in our urban environment—from the ongoing issue of access to housing to more recent concerns about gentrification, displacement, sustainability, and resilience—where do they turn? Again, borrowing Heller and Dagan’s legal framework of the “liberal commons,” we might begin to understand a broad spectrum of non-binary property regimes—that run counter to the tired public versus private dialectic—from cooperatives to homeowner associations to community land trusts. Only by harnessing the precise legal definition of real property to understand how specific ownership structures impact urban development outcomes in practice, can we imagine methods for dealing with conflict and empowering design professionals to engage in social practice.
Starting in 2014 as the inaugural recipient of the Glascock and van Buren Graduate Fellowship and continuing in the fall of 2015, Skylar's role at the Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) was a hybrid of research and design. Working directly under the center's research director at the time, Jesse Keenan, Skylar conducted a literature review of office space design metrics to aid in CURE's case study of the climate change adaptation strategies that Goldman Sachs employed in the design of their new corporate headquarters in Lower Manhattan. Skylar also prepared background research on the last 50 years of Mexican housing policy to brief Director Keenan ahead of a talk he gave at a conference organized by Infonavit, Mexico's national home mortgage lending agency.
Skylar was in charge of managing and implementing CURE’s graphic identity, designing posters for events the center hosted and laying out working papers for its senior researchers. Additionally, Skylar advised Director Keenan on graphic representation strategies for his work on climate change adaptation in the real estate industry, producing charts and diagrams for Keenan’s publications.
"…an architect's guide to contending with energy agendas. A cross between an architectural handbook and a voter's guide, the project maps approaches to energy management and performance to examine their implications for public life. Underdome catalogs a spectrum of positions argued for by a diverse cast including economists, environmentalists, community advocates, political scientists, and designers. In turn, it highlights in architecture questions of professional agency, the contemporary city, and collective priorities in the face of uncertain energy futures."
Skylar joined the project in its final months, as the team was readying the manuscript of its capstone book, The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform, helping to finalize the 3D modeling of its case study projects and refine the book's graphic language. Throughout the summer of 2014 Skylar developed and executed the workflow that realized the final illustrations from the 3D models that the team had produced.
In June 2011, Estudio Teddy Cruz held the third in its series of conferences on borderland architecture. The Political Equator 3 was focused on border neighborhoods as sites of social and cultural production and was framed around conversations at three sites straddling both sides of the US/Mexico border. Skylar worked with a team of other interns to produce a model that anchored the conversation at the second site: the Tijuana Estuary right at the mouth of Smuggler’s Gulch, a point of entry for those who do not have the privilege to cross the border with papers. The model depicted the gulch on the US side and the “zero setback” condition of Tijuana’s urban fabric clashing against the border fence. After the discussion the attendees crossed the border in to Tijuana through a storm drain.
Skylar also helped to diagram Professor Cruz’s arguments about the micro-politics of neighborhoods and his work with the local community development agency Casa Familiar, as well as to conduct research on the historical and theoretical precedents of Cruz's theories.
Given the provocation to engage a new mode of “collective urbanism” in the context of the future of housing and urban development in two older, western cities, our projects sought to explore two central questions: can architecture respond to the exigencies of the contemporary urban condition while simultaneously engaging the legacy of a city’s history? Both sites, the Preso Model in the Eixample district in Barcelona and Pier 7, the northern most point in the Brooklyn Marine Terminal in New York have a historical and territorial significance that we attempted to balance with the pressing demand for contemporary needs like housing and employment present in both cities.
In the spirit of the joint MSRED / M.Arch studio, we pursued those goals dually in terms of architecture and deal structure, using creative financing mechanisms and cross subsidies in conversation with hybridized programmatic design and formal explorations. History, politics, culture, transit infrastructure, project finance, construction costs, employment statistics, typological convention and regional planning were among the drivers that shaped our investigations.
A CHECKERED PAST: El Preso Model in the Eixample district is a little known site with a highly contentious history. The site is first noted on Barcelona’s periphery in the Cerda Plan for Barcelona in 1859, though the prison itself is not constructed until 1904. Throughout the 20th century Barcelona’s distinctive “manzanas” (square blocks with chamfered corners) filled in around it. The real legacy of the Preso, however, stems from the fascist occupation of Barcelona during the Franco Dictatorship. It was at this site that the political prisoners, many of them Roma and Catalonian Nationalists, were imprisoned, tortured and executed. This is not a legacy that Barcelonans take lightly, nor one they wish to erase; a sentiment reflected by the recent designation of the site as a historic landmark, even though it remains an active prison. The local government plans to decommission the prison in 2017, and its future remains somewhat of an open question. Our proposal employs an aggressive mode of adaptive reuse to honor the legacy of el Preso’s political prisoners while re-appropriate the structure for the needs of contemporary Barcelona. Market research pointed to astonishingly high unemployment, but strong growth in the tourism sector. As such, we set out to adapt the site for workforce training for the hospitality industry.
ADAPTING A STRUCTURE: The entry point to the design process was navigating the complex geometries of the existing building. A series of strategic operations were carried out to clear away parts of the site to make it suitable to public occupation. The most heavily preserved portions of the site make up the “legacy programs,” spaces and institutions which allow the public to engage with the site’s complicated past. The remaining heart of the prison’s panopticonal form is reclaimed as the center of the hospitality school. Its arms are expanded to accommodate classrooms while allowing the original circulation to be appropriated for new purpose. Sites for new construction around the reclaimed buildings redefine the preso’s relationship to the surrounding context.
BUILDING A SELF SUPPORTING INSTITUTION: The buildings around the hospitality school have ground floor retail spaces, half of which are dedicated to “incubator kitchens,” micro-restaurants that will be run by the top students in the culinary program at the hospitality school. Above these spaces is student housing, and higher still are “incubator hotels,” the hospitality equivalent of the culinary spaces on below. The income generated from the hotel and the retail spaces completely subsidizes the tuition for the students as well as the student housing. The highest levels in the newly constructed buildings are sold as market rate condominiums to cover the cost of construction for the project.
URBAN ENGAGEMENT: The ground conditions between the preserved buildings and the new construction seeks to engage the surrounding urban fabric through a variety of urban conditions. The most intimate is the “contemplative plaza” that frames the entrance to the memorial. This space is semi-enclosed by the only remaining piece of the prison’s walls and is built around a reflecting pool that traces the outlines of the cells of the removed prison arm. To the north of that is a retail arcade that occupies the negative space around the shadow of the former arm, evocative of the “pasatge” conditions found elsewhere in Barcelona. The southern half of the site, which is mostly devoted to scholastic programs, is foregrounded by demonstration fields, which allow the culinary students to cultivate their own produce while simultaneously providing a visual interface with the broader urban public.
An active port facility leased to a beer distributor by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Pier 7 in the Brooklyn Marine Terminal is on the frontier between the docklands and the southernmost portion of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Our investigation began with a look at the history of New York’s waterfront, which has always been integral to the city’s identity: from a colonial port, to a manufacturing and distribution hub, to the era of waterfront redevelopment, to the flooding during Hurricane Sandy. In recent years, the city's waterways have been the site of major municipal policy initiatives. Whereas the Bloomberg administration sought to bolster public access to the water through a series of new parks supported by private development, the de Blasio administrations is attempting to harness it as an infrastructure, expanding the existing ferry system exponentially to serve as the backbone of new transit-oriented development sites for affordable housing in the outer boroughs. One of the new proposed ferry terminals is at Pier 6, immediately next to our site. Our analysis looked at the areas within a half mile radius of each of the new terminals and examined existing retail square footage (a metric for identifying job centers), existing housing units and unbuilt as-of-right residential FAR.
TRANSIT ORIENTED WORKFORCE HOUSING: The analysis made clear that while the ferry system as a whole had great potential for connecting areas with lots of untapped development rights to areas with high concentrations of retail employment, (the expressed goal of de Blasio’s initiative,) our site lacked much in the way of unused FAR, despite having little existing housing stock. However, due to its close proximity to the Manhattan job centers, we proposed that the site be designated a special development project along the lines of the Mayor’s plan for Sunny Side Yards, directly integrated with his ferry proposal. A 99 year lease would be obtained from the Port Authority, in exchange for a nominal payment and the provision of a state-of-the-art, (albeit small) distribution center on site. Additionally, the workforce center would house facilities for the International Brotherhood of Longshoremen and the Teamsters to provide services to their members, potentially helping the Port Authority in their labor negotiations as they plan for the future of the Brooklyn Marine terminal. The main mass of housing would be mixed income project of 900 units, split 50-30-20 per HDC guidelines. The unit types and sizes were specified by the development program, but algorithmically shuffled and packed to break up the building’s mass. The massing was tapered on both ends: inland to relate to the scale of Brownstone Brooklyn and to the water to provide views. The whole project was lifted on stilts out of flooding concerns and to provide views from Brooklyn Bridge park clear through to the active port on the other side, connecting the public with the cities maritime legacy. In addition to the ferry, a new gondola system was proposed running from the Barclay’s Center along the Atlantic Avenue retail corridor to Governors Island, to further tie the site in to existing urban networks.
BLURRING THE BORDER BETWEEN PORT AND PARK: The site around the main housing mass was left predominantly open, allowing for fluid circulation between the two transit modes, unobstructed views of the the active port to the south, as well as easy access to the cultural program, retail spaces and workforce center. , which are housed under a folded roof that slips beneath the housing on the east end of the site and defines the project’s urban edge along Columbia Street. The western portions of the site slope down to meet the waters edge, creating an artificial beach that allows for viewing of “culture barges,” floating attractions that are prepared by a facility along the back edge of the new pier. The financial model of the project was geared around both the provision of affordable housing and the cross-subsidizing of the cultural and civic programs in the podium as part of the justification for the major variances that the project would require from the city. A density analysis explored project sizing relative to providing revenue streams to various public amenities.
Out of the ashes of the recession, a new typology emerged along 57th Street, the Super Tall, Ultra Luxury Condo Tower. While Extell’s “One57” was technically the first building of this class “432 Park Avenue” by Harry Macklowe with support from the CIM Group, is arguably the ideal type. After topping out in October 2014, it officially became the highest roof in the city, its relentless grid of 10’ x 10’ monolithic windows evoking a late-capitalist rendition of Super Studio’s Continuous Monument. Everything about this building is extreme, including its construction methodology, the subsequent construction cost, the sales point, and the potential profits. However, Professor Andrés Jaque had us examine the a scenario in which that large portions of the building remain vacant. Real estate financial analysis of such a scenario showed that the replacement value of the condos as luxury rental properties does not come close to being a viable option for an investor looking to acquire portions of 432 park as a “distressed asset.” So what would happen to the tower? This scenario (and it is not completely improbable, if not for 432 Park, then for one of the half dozen other towers currently under construction) provides a fertile testing ground for alternative modes of urban domesticity, which might re-purpose the tower to its own ends. Towards this goal our team conducted field research on the specific domesticity present in the sharing economy communities, AirBNB and Couchsurfing.com, providing case studies of hosts to inform our project.
Repositioning Units: Our proposal repositions 27 units in 432 Park as a new rental mode: CrashPad is simultaneously an architectural tool kit for transforming the tower’s opulent apartments into spaces that are more easily subdivided, and a management strategy that interfaces between a micro-subletting service front end and a conventional tenant structure back end. CrashPad provides a means for the general public to live in 432 Park, by creating units with three sub-tenancies explicitly designed to be micro-sublet through CrashPad’s front end hospitality service, thereby making up the difference between standard New York rent and the revenue need to support our repositioning proposal. In this way, CrashPad harnesses the conflict and pressures present in New York’s general rental market and puts them in the service of our “distressed asset.” Cynical? Perhaps, but this reflects the current state of play in housing in this city. The front end character of CrashPad is built around the notion of “a curated domestic experience” packaging the different domestic modes we found in our field research as part of the “narrative of authenticity” that fuels the sharing economy. Through our field work, we identified four distinct unit types across a dual-axis spectrum from radical to normative and from hands on to hands off.
GETTING PHYSICAL: Throughout the semester a 1:100 scale model of 432 Park, standing some 15’ tall, served as a site of experimentation for our investigations. Beginning the semester as a pristine representation of the tower, the model slowly was overcome by the different group’s interventions.
KNOWN UNKNOWNS: ADVANCED STUDIO IV
SPRING 2014 // PROFESSOR JANETTE KIM
In response to the Post-Disaster Interim Housing plan put forward by New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, this project proposes a framework for the production of interim, heterogeneous urban spaces to address the loss of the physical infrastructure that facilitates complex networks of urban use beyond the simple designation of “housing.”
one to one equivalence? Illustrations produced by the planning department for the OEM’s interim housing plan, show a vision for the recovery of a fictional New York neighborhood. Investigation for this project began with questioning whether this post-disaster state represented a 1:1 recovery of the urban complexity that existed before the disaster event. Could a process be conceived that better accounts for the differences inherent in the lives of the people who are displaced resulting in a scenario with less long-term or permanent displacement?
a scalar strategy: The project calls for the preparation of numerous sites throughout the city which would be built out with interim spaces only in the event of a disaster, and only in proportion to the levels of displacement the city experiences. Site preparation involves the city using eminent domain to obtain easements on property allowing for the laying of foundations and utility connections in anticipation of future interim programs without the need for the municipal government to take possession of vast land holdings. These foundations would be disguised as landscape features or occupiable spaces with over-engineered structural capacity, designed to be able to receive the interim use spaces should the need arise. However these preparatory interventions are intended to serve as infrastructural and programmatic investments in themselves, and would ideally continue to benefit their surroundings irrespective of any need for the site to be built out. In the advent of a disaster, the new interim spaces would parasitize the vertical circulation of multiple existing structures, both creating infrastructural redundancy in older buildings with only one elevator as well as unifying the existing residents and the displaced residents as a single constituency.
HOUSING STUDIO: GSAPP CORE STUDIO III
FALL 2013 // PROFESSOR RAFI SEGAL
A collaboration with Steve Chappell.
Early on in our exploration of this East Harlem site, Steve Chappell and I determined that the location was ill-suited to residential development. The challenges presented by our site result from negative externalities caused by a confluence of regional transportation infrastructure. Rather than fight this condition, our proposal seeks to invert the relationship, repositioning the site as a new node in these networks. Drawing from both contemporary and historic plans, we propose a large automated garage, with integrated automotive services and car-sharing, which interfaces with Harlem River Drive and intermodal connections to the East River Ferry, the 4-5-6 subway line and the CitiBike system via the Manhattan Green-way. The project offsets the burden of automotive infrastructure in the surrounding area, allowing surface lots to be developed for new housing opportunities and street parking to be re-designated as parks or dedicated bus lanes. However, this project is more than just a new piece of infrastructure; it seeks to avoid the mistakes of the previous century’s rigid, purpose-built schemes. This is inhabitable infrastructure, hybridized with programs that can leverage an embeddedness within transportation networks. Integrated into its role as transport hub is housing for commuters, retail, recreational space and work space. This is a piece of infrastructure which holistically addresses the city-dweller’s relationship to these larger regional systems; this is infrastructure as place.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY INFRASTRUCTURES: Bounded by some of New York’s most heavily used transportation arteries: the Metro North Rail Line to the west and the Harlem River and Harlem River Drive to the east, our site is defined by regional infrastructures which would little benefit a traditional housing model. The neighborhood is home to a range of “secondary infrastructures:” car dealerships, park + ride lots, mechanics and other programs at the service of car owners. The circumscription by primary regional transportation arteries and pervasiveness of secondary automotive infrastructures have a profound effect on the urban character of the area around are site. Structured as it is around the scale of the automobile, it lacks the vibrancy of the neighborhoods to the immediate south and west.
SECONDARY INFRASTRUCTURE, A REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE: Looking at secondary automotive infrastructure as a regional institution, it seems to have a somewhat even distribution across the city. However, when you begin to break down this information by the intensity of usage, showing which plots are entirely devoted to automotive services rather than just providing underground parking, a different picture emerges. Strikingly, these concentrations of intensive programs do not necessarily correlate with car ownership rates, meaning that these districts are primarily not servicing their own residents. Returning to the immediate area of our site, it is clear that it is part of an “infrastructural edge” condition, one which services the car owners of the Upper East and Upper West Sides, as well as parts of Harlem, while doing little for the residents of the neighborhood.
CONSOLIDATION + REDEVELOPMENT: To engage this condition head-on, our project proposes to consolidate all of these secondary automotive programs in within a new infrastructural typology, freeing up the land formerly occupied by the old, single-use infrastructures for the development of affordable housing and other programs which would make the neighborhood more suitable to residential use. The land that the secondary automotive infrastructures holds the potential to provide a wealth of new housing opportunities. With minimal rezoning to match adjacent parcels (those lots outlined red at left) the numbers far surpass those that could be achieved developing our site alone.
DESIGNING INFRASTRUCTURE AS PLACE: The resulting infrastructure is a large-scale automated parking garage with many different components servicing different secondary automotive infrastructures. Surrounding this mechanized core is an intermodal transit hub and various complimentary, occupiable programs that position our site as a node in broader regional networks while simultaneously providing amenities to the surrounding neighborhood. This section illustrates the inner workings of the project, exposing the entrance and exit ramps, the short-term parking mass, the dealership and custom shop as well as the relationship between the resident’s parking and the commuter housing masses. The commuter housing forms a veneer along the waters edge, both granting views to the apartments as well as masking the utilitarian appearance of structure from the green-way. Inversely, the infrastructural elements of the program shield the apartments from the noise of the Metro North Railway and the sanitation truck parking below it. The Harlem River Drive freeway is covered by an extension of the green-way, further insulating the residences. Many of the site’s users would enter the site via car, a population which include park and ride commuters, residents, patrons of the mechanics, longterm parking lessees, grocery store shoppers and cinema-goers attending the drive-in theater on the roof. The entrance ramp leads to a bank of car elevators that are the start point for the automated sorting system above. A roof-top park and accompanying “drive-in” theater provide public access to views of Midtown Manhattan down the Park Avenue / Metro-North corridor. Land-hungry secondary automotive infrastructural programs like car dealerships are consolidated into more compact footprints by the mechanics of automatic car sorting. This arrangement can also play an aesthetic role in the retail component of these programs.
Bank Studio: GSAPP Core Stuido II
SPRING 2013 // PROFESSOR MABEL WILSON
Located on Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn, the Alternative Development Bank (AltDevo Bank) seeks to act as a mediator between the traditional belligerents in the gentrification battle in commercial districts through two adversarial sub-agencies: one which represents the interests of the retail tenants and the other which represents the interests of the landlords. The AltDevo Commercial Debt Restructuring Agency that would work with retailers to manage their debts and transition their businesses to adapt to changing local economic conditions. The AltDevo Development Agency would work with landlords to build out underutilized upper-floor offer space, increasing rent revenues in exchange for more gradual increases in ground-floor retail rents, buying the retailers time to transition their businesses. In this way, AltDevo Bank proposes to intervene in the redevelopment process, creating inclusive institutional frameworks that allow existing residents to actively participate in neighborhood transition, thereby producing outcomes that better reflect neighborhood character. The architectural intervention parasitize the existing structure in a series of phases, gradually exploiting untapped property value for the landlord, forgoing the kind of reckless, zero-sum speculation that prices out existing tenants.
THE CO-CREATION OF VALUE: A literature review of studies of retail gentrification pointed to Sneaker Culture as a non-typical case study. Based on logics of authenticity, or “street cred,” Corporate America has effectively partnered with small urban retailers in an arrangement termed by Nike as “the co-creation of value.” Whether this is a truly symbiotic relationship, or simply capitalist appropriation of minority culture is a matter for debate, however it provides an interesting model for an alternative mode of retail gentrification. Leveraging the value of authenticity, Alt-Devo Bank might be able to engage in a similar Co-Creation venture with corporate partners and landlords in order to “buy time” for its debt restructuring retail clients to adjust their business models to changing consumer conditions, thereby preserving small local retailers.
A PHASED MODEL: The architectural model for Alt-Devo banked involves the phased, parasitic adaptation of the existing building on the site, expanding gradually as the number of clients grows. This model could serve as a case study for land lords interested in gradually increasing upper floor rent revenues without speculatively selling their properties to larger developers.
GSAPP Architectural Drawing + Representation 1
Fall 2012 // Professor Josh Uhl
A precedent study of Rudolph M. Schindler's canonical Lovell Beach House in Newport Beach.
Arch 101: UC Berkeley Advanced Studio
Fall 2011 // Professor Renee Chow
This project houses two previously unrelated institutions at UC Berkeley, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, which is responsible for overseeing classes in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Buddhist Studies, and the Center for East Asian Studies, a collection of research institutions focused on East Asian issues. The proposal is comprised of two distinct masses, which give discrete identities to the two institutions. This partitioning is mediated by a spanning element, which seeks to facilitate inter-organizational collaboration; placing instructional spaces and faculty offices in close proximity to offices for visiting scholars and guest lectures at the institute. The large-scale concrete frames which support the spanning element, serve to create a secondary ground condition above large open spaces that are used for public events. The two masses and an adjacent building enclose a courtyard space which opens up to the campus. This space has a degree of intimacy in its proximity to the gallery space, but is also decidedly public in that it maintains a right of way through the site. This duality seeks to increase the interaction between the two client institutions and the larger campus community by bringing passersby in close proximity to event spaces.
In December 2008, the Cal Memorial Victory Garden Club was formed by a group of students, primarily agroecology majors, with the intent of building a demonstration garden on Memorial Glade, a central location on the UC Berkeley Campus. In January, initial meetings began with the administration and Jim Horner, chief landscape architect of Campus Physical and Plant Services. By the end of February, the plans were approved and construction began. The design utilized salvaged wood from houses in Oakland and a layered construction system which did not require the digging of post holes, which would have been quite difficult in the compacted clay soil of the site. The garden functioned as a site for agricultural demonstrations, a meeting place for other clubs on campus and hosted the lab for ESPM 117, Urban Agricultural Ecosystems. In late December 2009, the garden was demolished by a unilateral action from the administration.
The garden was a staple of campus tours during the Spring and Fall of 2009 and was featured in the university’s newsletter, garnering praise from renowned journalist and UC Berkeley professor Michael Pollan:
”Students will learn that they can feed themselves, and just how much food a small plot can produce…They may also learn new habits of thought and, paradoxically, values of self-reliance and community. The university will learn that students care about food, and that there are more productive (and beautiful) uses of its land than grass.”