The path. The space. The threshold. Some highway transcripts

Project

Once upon a time there was a terrible highway which cut the heads of some blocks of Brooklyn. The blocks could stay alive anyway but the curse of the highway let all the space around them becoming gloomy and bad for living.The only creatures living there were cars and big camions. The place lost its identity and humanity.

The project is focused on the complexity of a layer intersection are in the neighbourhood of Sunset Park(NY). Like many highways in America, the Express way was designed and built in the 20th century, not caring so much about the context in a zone which was already troubled because of the transition between the living neighbourhood and the industrial area.

Nowadays the area below the high way is almost dead and also the industrial area of Sunset Park, which once upon a time was that main work resource for the quartier, have lost itsidentity.

The creation of new parks and a new urban plan for the water front just in front of the industrial area,let working on this area be much more interesting for a future develop of the neighbourhood.

Three urban dispositive to fix the complex intersection of layers in Brooklyn. Inspired by the“Manhattantranscripts”of BernardTschumi,the design tried to fix a super complex area, developed on many layers. The path works at the metropolitan scale, with a graffetta structure, linking the train stop of Sunset Park with the boat  stop next the Army Terminal. The line- approach works also at the public scale with a new pedestrian network which is horizontal and vertical at the same time and at the semi-private scale with a new system of access to the private apartments of theblock.

The space is expansion of the path, it expresses the quality of the public spaces,which aren’t simple vectors but also places to live in.In particular the space take importance inside the landmarks with a green walk discovering the urban agriculture. The threshold marks the limits of the areas: the totems at the urban scale gives the orientation reference in the territory like a bell tower in a square; the landmarks at the intermediary scale works at two different layers: they can be perceived as references upon the highway, seen at the velocity of the cars,or as part of the green path from below,which let the people enjoy the view of the waterfront from the top.

The new “heads” oft he blocks, give back an identity to the blocks and rule the access at the common areas of the building, intermediating with a greenhouse which all the inhabitants can use for urban farming.

Interview

What defined the various mediums through which you explore and reveal the project?

We used a lot of different mediums to show the project because of its complexity and variety. We ranged from metropolitan scale’s interventions, involving the whole NY city, to the landscape details of installations. This large extension from 1:50000 to 1:20, involving different design fields as landscape design, urban planning, mobility design and architectural design, led us to use a lot of tools, which aim to reveal the human nature of the urban scale. We demonstrated how the urban scale, beside brain and diagrams, should disclose impressions and feelings.

We tried to narrate it as a story by switching technical drawings and illustrations as a novel developed by images.

How instrumental was the drawing in the development of the project itself?

Drawing was immediately the tool through we shaped our research. The urban analysis on population density, along with the distribution of inhabitants and their occupations, displacements, age and ethnicity, went hand in hand with the analysis of variations of the original block in the different parts of the city. This allowed us to hypothesize some punctual interventions related to the concept of the threshold and to find out solutions which in a bigger scale could functionally hold together different parts of the neighborhood which mark out a lack of interrelations.

The maps we designed to express the urban current situation were progressively overlapping by the drawing of a paper clip which holds the thresholds designed for the city scale. From the graphic sign of the paper clip, some other threshold interventions enter the urban fabric with decreasing intensity. The most interesting aspect was to notice how the same sign came out spontaneously in the numerous places of Brooklyn where rapid industrial growth and huge infrastructures had created gaps in the urban fabric of neighborhoods.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in operating on a site that you could not have access to? How and to what extent did this influence the project?

After almost one month from the beginning of the work one of the component of our group had the possibility to visit the site, took photos and be aware of how big was the area we were working on.

Even if before of that we had some ideas about the size and the greatness of the highway, it was just after visiting the site that we had recognized how important was to create a kind of filter that could mediates between the highway and the blocks becoming their new “head”. So, somehow the access to the site leads us to strengthen our first ideas.

Even though the temporary access to the site was one of the biggest challenges of the project, so that we could only fill the gap of phisical informations by research.

What was your work process in terms of research and mapping at the beginning? What sources did you look to and how did you then compile all of the datas as images?

At the beginning the useful work was to understand the many layers the area involved is composed of. The primary difference as the drawing shows, is based on different culture and use of the blocks, from the asian area to the latin one, as from a high-density use to the industrial and abandoned waterfront.

We tried to understand this kind of datas connected to the main public transports as the main streets or public spaces, or the highway that cuts the big area.

Everything leads us to become aware of which type of space we were supposed to work on, and what kind of operation we could do.

We look mostly to sites like city data, oasis nyc, to find informations about the most important features of the neighborhood and the kind of role given to every local; so each information was immediately connected to the kind of datas we were considering in mapping.

The challenge was to transform every information in drawing starting from the urban scale to some images that could explain the kind of intervention leaving from all the researches.

How important are tools as google earth for the contemporary architect?

Not having direct access to the site project forced us to rely on a variety of tools, each with their own a filtered impression of reality. Google Earth offers a drone-like vision, where images describe spaces without precision but giving away their quality and abstract character.

This feature allows not only to overcome the distance between the designer and the site but also to access different layers of privacy when official data aren’t enough to define urban fragments. Furthermore, the distortion, given by Google Earth and tools like Street View, suggests an unfamiliar point of view, which can add complexity when building a narrative and a portrait for a neighborhood. 

How important were the references in the development of you own intervention? What lead you to analyse these specific case studies?

The design process was like playing chess with references. We started combining site and social conditions together with concepts and examples in a grid.

While drawing an abacus of possibilities we end up with the project: we used references as tools to translate concepts into reality.

Tschumi’s Manhattan transcriptswas the main concept leading us from the metropolitan scale to the human scale. The view from the roadand Learning from Las Vegashelped us to come up with an american approach to the city’s perception, differentiating landmark at the different scales by diversifying the fast view from the car and the pedestrian’s slow one.

The community garden’s issue, part of the landscape project let us consider the future development of green areas in a metropolis like NY, which could be integrated with buildings, by bringing back to people a domestic dimension in the everyday life (Pasona urban farm)

What would you say is the most important tool you rely on when thinking of drawing?

In a first initial phase to approach a territorial scale of the project, we use physical graphic material

such as planimetry, tracing paper, colored pencils and various instruments where we can draw freehand and have the first contact with the place, where technology does not limit the movement of the paper stroke.

As in any project, in the previous phase we dedicated to concentrate as much informations of the place  as possible and this has been accompanying us throughout the process, where the search for information has been our most important material.

Approaching a larger scale, the drawing begins to increase the detail and from this moment we started not to use just physicals instruments with an inaccurate trace. This necessity of more detail leads us to use technological tools, always with a special care not to lose the essence of the first idea made with paper and pencil.

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