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Common Ground

Morningside Park sits at the crux of barriers: some natural and defined over millennia, such as the vein of Manhattan schist running along the length of the park, others artificial and yet to be reconciled, such as the largely racially-based grading of surrounding neighborhoods by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation over much of the early 20th century. Along 122nd Street, the unfortunate practice of redlining neighborhoods as “Hazardous” and “Still Desirable” survives as the present boundary between Upper West Side public schools in District 3 and Harlem public schools in District 5, while its consequences are reflected through the discrepancy in student performance and outcomes between the four public and charter schools along the north edge of the park. To begin to overcome an inhospitable history and landscape, the first step of the intervention ameliorates the steep drop in elevation between P.S.36 and the former Horace Mann-Lincoln School of Teachers’ College. Each building receives a frontage above and below the generated surface, allowing opportunities for outdoor play and shelter for shared amenities over and under formerly impassible ground. By way of embedded rods of recycled plastic, typically impervious concrete becomes permeable, relaying presence and light through the surface.