8 september 2011

suckerPUNCH: get punched by Design

This extremely designerly website is a helping hand for young designers and architects. Architecture Firms can post job opportunities and almost all of the proposals deal with unique projects. By organizing competitions on various themes in and around New York City, SuckerPUNCH is trying to promote design and architecture. It is also a medium for graduating students to "publish" their hard work and share it with others. Definitely worth checking out and maybe our own thesis's could one day be published here? Visit the website here.

Lavender Lake Artist's Factory
One of the competitions that was held, concerned a site at Red Hook bordered by the Gowanus canal to the East, a privately owned building to the South, Smith street to the west, and 5th street to the North. Gowanus canal borders vibrant Brooklyn neighborhoods of Red Hook, Park Slope and Caroll Gardens. Due to heavy industrial pollution in the past, the canal got a noticable purple "sheen" and this lended the nickname lavender lake. During the beginning of the twentieth century, the canal was one of the busiest waterways in the United States. But in the 1950's most of the industry abandoned the area whilest leaving behind a canal filled with sewage, fuel oil, scrap metal and other pollutants, and surrounded by vacant warehouses and "scrap heaps". In 1975 the site was taken over by the City and declared a "public space". The goal was for it to become a public recreational park but it has been sitting behind locked gates ever since.

Aerial view of Gowanus canal with East River in background

Several years ago a new interest in the area arose because of booming activity in the neighborhoods so plans were made to revive the canal surroundings. Soon enough several bars, music venues, outdoor event spaces and artists studios sprawled next to Gowanus canal (bar tano - the bell house - the yard - the sweater factory). Zoning allows for the site to be build op to 12 stories wich presents a wide range of possibilities for future development as soon as the environmental cleanup of the canal is completed:

"On March 2, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the Gowanus as a Superfund site, ushering in nearly 12 years of studies and work to dredge the contaminated mud at a cost of $500 million. The city is also at work on a three-year, $150-million project to clean the water by rehabilitating the canal’s flushing tunnel and pumping station. A city rezoning proposal to add residential to the manufacturing zone is currently on hold while the agency decides how to move forward and how the federal cleanup designation would impact appropriate redevelopment and remediation." 

"Public Space" site

The competition proposed a new artist factory for the new public space site. The designers were asked to generate a proposal that houses creative production and attracts visitors to the new area. The factory itself had to contain private/shared art studios, a storefront gallery/bar, analog/digital shops and live/work spaces for artists. The original goal of the site, a public space, was an absolute requirement for the proposals and had to be carefully integrated in the design as a programmatic part of the whole. 
Here are two of the submitted designs I found most interesting:

Design Board by David Jaubert

Design Board by Andrew Brown

On the suckerPUNCH website you can review most of the submitted proposals along with other competitions held in previous years. They also have a flickr page with the top20 proposals organized per competition and downloadable in high quality. 

All images courtesy of suckerPUNCH Daily

"Red Hook Be Damned", Benjamin Cadena

About two years ago a design team led by Benjamin Cadena submitted a proposal for a new master plan for the neighborhood of Red Hook when the Forum for Urban Design of New York set about seeking a way to spur sustainable economic development. What's interesting about this proposal is the way Cadena tries to unify sustainability with leisure.

"As sea levels rise and storm patterns become more severe, the low-lying Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook is at risk of severe flooding and imminent destruction. Looking past this bleak prognosis, an opportunity presents itself for Red Hook to redefine its future. Combining its infrastructure, leisure and transportation needs, Red Hook can transform itself into a sustainable neighborhood with a unique and truly progressive character.  This proposal is a provocation. Attempting to couple both active and passive infrastructures, it asserts that there should be no separation between the impending pragmatics of our urban infrastructural needs and how our entire urban experience is effectively shaped. By making infrastructure readily visible in the urban environment, hybridizing its uses, and engaging multiple scales, a distinct, local and possibly more enriching city will emerge."

Red Hook waterfront: a new dam brings with it new activities
"A dam rises to surround Red Hook and provide protection from future flooding while creating, as a by-product, a new bicycle and pedestrian path. Circumscribed within this ring, a secondary inner loop completes the transformation of Red Hook into a bicycle and pedestrian safe zone; an island in a sea of cars. Stitching the two loops together, a network of bicycle stations not only provide adequate storage and bicycle services for commuters, residents and visitors alike, but are coupled with programs that introduce new uses and economic opportunities to this historic waterfront neighborhood."

"The marriage of infrastructure + leisure facilitates the realization of a vision, revealing new funding opportunities when resources are scarce and galvanizing political will where there is none. This proposal seeks to avoid superfluousness, waste, and ultimately irrelevance, and hopes to instigate the need to consider a truly integrated and holistic approach as we envision the future of any neighborhood and the city as a whole."

If you like to learn more about this conceptual proposal, there's a video right here 
You can also visit the Forum for Urban Design for New York here

All images courtesy of Benjamin Cadena

"Grand Urban Rules", 2009

This interesting little book talks of an imaginary city called Averuni that lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 5 1/2 hours flying from New York City. This city represents the contemporary metropolis with American, European and Asian influences, and resembles Paris in population density. 
At some point this imaginary mega-city began to suffer from detereorating urban qualities quite similar to those affecting real cities around the globe. The mayor of Averuni ordered the forming of an urban design group to investigate the world's great cities resembling Averuni's charachter or whose problems were in some way exemplary. 

Overview of the urban "rules"

19 cities were selected including New York, Berlin, Paris, London and Hong Kong. After an intensive research the design team came up with a set of rules that serve as a steering instrument to overcome problems that rise in most contemporary cities.

The various "metropolisses" that were analysed

Though Averuni is a fictional city, the 115 rules extrapolated from the analysis of 19 great cities give the urban designer methodological tools to counterforce definite urban issues. They represent "creative acts", attempts at guiding urban destinies.

Alex Lehnerer, Grand Urban Rules, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 2009
All images courtesy of 010 Publishers

Yale Reinvents Red Hook, 2006

In search for some interesting images of the Red Hook waterfront, I stumbled upon an article concerning a thesis project held five years ago at Yale School of Architecture. Led by associate professor Edward Mitchell, the graduate students were given the theoretical project of reinventing Red Hook. They proposed several make-overs, each one challenging and far-ranging, and covering multiple themes including social housing and livable urban space.

Red Hook - Sugar Factory

Although the projects were pure theoretical in nature, the students were given design challenges that are still to this day real issues for Red Hook: "Are green space and urban space mutually exclusive? Is waterfront an obsolete asset? Is Red Hook just an isolated urban island? How do you integrate the diverse sectors of Red Hook, which include public housing, industrial sites, substantial (but inaccessible) park areas, and a waterfront (also largely inaccessible to the public)?"

Model of Red Hook waterfront area design proposal
"The visions produced in these renderings and 3D models are diverse and provocative. Possibilities for Red Hook range from a naturalistic recreation park with camping, an animal preserve, a golf course, a grand canal, water sports and fishing, to selling off park space and promoting large-scale private development. One radical view unveils a "CarPark" that provides Red Hook with some additional 31,021 parking spaces and doubles as a large regional public park. Perhaps less radical, another project contemplates an "Historic Red Hook", side-by-side with a "Street Car Suburb", public housing, beach, entertainment and a farm. And what about those big box stores? Controversy is not avoided here. One model advocates that big box stores and the like should be not be resisted but viewed as assets with the aim of dispersing them throughout Red Hook as "smart growth". The premise for this project is that the problem is not large-scale development itself, but the concentration of such developments along the water's edge where traffic flow and proximity to public transportation is limited."
View of possible private development at waterfront

Since this assignment at Yale shows significant similarities with STUDIO Brooklyn themes, it's worth exploring more of the proposals the students presented.


Houston, TX: globalized city "par excellence"

"Houston may well be the globalized city par excellence: rigorous and pure in its shapelessness, cruel, unforgiving and utterly delirious in its conviction that cities need be no more than mega-machines for doing bidness at ever-expanding scales. It also represents a clear omen and model for all other cities everywhere in the world of what the true destiny and impact of economic globalization could be for human societies." 

Houston is rooted in nothing more specific or local than the mechanical air-conditioning systems that made it conceivable as a site of mass inhabitation. It is now the third largest city in the United States. It serves as an experimental model for nearly all developing cities in the world.
Houston is famous for being a city without zoning. There is almost no control whatsoever on the development and exploitation of its territory for individual and corporate profit. Development is exposed to economic fluctuation on all levels from local to global. Because of this the urban organization has become a strange pathwork of micro-ecologies, cities-within-cities, owned and created by corporations. Through the contiual annexation of surrounding lands, Houston has been able to grow almost without limits.

Downtown Houston in middle (Highrise buildings) with periphery

"The American Frontier city is often crisscrossed by easements, like vast expansion joints whose purpose might be to relieve the built up pressure from aggravated local pockets of hyper-development. In Houston these vast byways create access routes for pipelines, waterways, electric cables, even grazing. Yet like the Haussmanization of Paris a century earlier, the overlay of this remarkably efficient connective mesh imposes a hidden order of almost military effect and proposition.
Even amid the apparent dereliction of these spaces an extraordinary process of demarcation and destruction is taking place, a huge grifter narrative unfolding at the industrial and Metropolitan scale.
To the conventional eye these easements and utilities merely slice up the landscape, creating tiny unusable slivers of urban ejecta and unusable space. But from another perspective they create a vast rational network of continuous semi-functional space, matched only by the freeway system.

Houston "easements"

Mutations, Arc en Reve, 2001, Bordeaux