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Vertical Street

Street culture used to be an essential part of the History of Harlem. The immediacy and spontaneity of the activities happening on the street were the source of vibrancy and creativity for the neighborhood. The culture was gradually demised with the expansion of Columbia University in this area. The neighborhood is fragmented spatially by the superscale institutional buildings, which are inaccessible for the locals and used by strangers intruding on their communities.

The project tackles the local teenagers who lost their opportunity to participate in after-school activities due to the shutdown of youth facilities. A series of spaces led by a ramp is proposed, extending from the ground to the rooftop of the Forum, one of Columbia University’s flagship buildings that is very much underused. Located at the junction of 125th Street and Broadway, the intervention acts as an interlock between the two sides of West Harlem.

Those spaces are designed for teenagers for after-school activities. The internal finish of retained shopping containers can help them instantly curate the space with lightweight furniture. The ramp along these spaces intends to recreate the feeling of the street back in time. The ramp is not simply a parade where one can see what others are doing; instead, the activities are not restricted within the volume but have an opportunity to occupy the street. The two-way relationship between the spaces and circulation makes the journey different for every visit.

The volume intruded into the existing building of Columbia manifested a mutual relationship between the local community and the super institution. It questions the value of the constructions and their relationship to the locals. By reimagining the occupation of a building, a new relationship might be established from this point on.