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New Paradigms of Residual Space

May 3, 2021 – May 14, 2021
Across New York City

“In a dense city like New York, the residual space beneath the nearly 700 miles of elevated transportation infrastructure can no longer be an afterthought. The millions of square feet of these sites, nearly four times the size of Central Park, arguably encompass one of the most blighting influences on the city’s neighborhoods, yet also constitute one of the last development frontiers. This substantial inventory…represents an untapped public asset that has the potential to radically transform New York’s urban fabric."–Under the Elevated (Design Trust for Public Space, 2015)

As part of the city’s path to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating effect it has had on the city’s cultural and economic ecosystems, this workshop examined the possibilities that residual space offers as usable, occupiable, and buildable space to adjacent communities, cultural institutions large and small, and to the city as a whole. Emerging from the pandemic are needs, habits, patterns and priorities that have been met with creative, provisional and improvised solutions providing clues to how residual space may be transformed into valued civic resources.

Overlooked lots; infrastructural opportunities like the High Line and its tributaries below the structure; performance agoras created out of the public spaces that surround the city’s cultural treasures; pop-up itinerant performances; floating operas, opening streets to help preserve restaurant use–these are some of the idiosyncratic initiatives that have begun to create new paradigms of both performance and everyday use. During the pandemic these thoughtful urban interventions have inspired physical and policy innovations and present a worthy challenge for planners, architects, urban designers, and urbanists generally to help redefine buildings, urban space, and the relationships between them to reconnect to the city’s network of amenities and circulation systems. Interviews and dialogues with significant architects, designers, performers, planners, and community stakeholders who are helping to recreate and celebrate the city’s inextinguishable vitality formed an integral part of the workshop. The opportunity to respond to the equity issues surrounding public space, performing arts, and access to culture was at the core of the workshop’s investigation and work.

The unanimous approval by the City Council to restart outdoor ticketed performing arts events and the ongoing Open Streets Program indicate that political support is already in place to reinvigorate New York City with broader opportunities for recreation, play, learning, dining, commerce, and the arts. The workshop leveraged existing initiatives, and potentially new ones, to propose a coordinated vision for residual space as part of the city’s recovery and permanent transformation.

This workshop included:

  • Visual analysis
  • Interviews and discussions with architects, urban planners, urban designers, community stakeholders, urbanists, performing arts subject area experts
  • Sketches, models, and individual and team proposals for selected sites
  • Field trips to MoMA PS1, East Harlem, the High Line, Long Island City, Astoria, and DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Student work

Communal Space Under the Metro North
East Harlem (Park Avenue & E 112th Street)
This residual space under the Metro North will be used as an open communal space for everyone in East Harlem, especially serving NYCHA residents and students at neighboring public schools. This open space will be mainly used as a picnic area where everyone can bring food from the food trucks and La Marqueta. The stage can be used as a performing area for local musicians and DJs as well as a workshop space for nutrition and Mexican cooking classes for youth. Amenities include tables, chairs, and an open stage with a foldable wall that can be also used as a seating area and art exhibition area in off-stage times. Mirror plates acting as a roof will brighten and enliven the space by capturing the sunlight and reflects it down to the overshadowed area as well as reflect the lights from Mexican-patterned light balls in the nighttime.
Welcoming Gateway Under the Manhattan Bridge
Chinatown (Division Street)
Surrounded by small retails and informal businesses in the commercial area, this passageway underneath the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown can be regarded as a typical residual space. It is a place that many Chinatown locals and visitors pass by but few stop at. Given its location and the special demographic characteristics, the design started with analyzing the users during different times of the day and discusses different needs. The area will add greenery and sitting areas for visitors, implement organized space for vendors, attach Chinese lanterns as lighting infrastructures, provide dancing space for nighttime leisure for the surrounding communities, and reinforce the culture and identity of Chinatown.
West Harlem (145 Ave. – 155 Ave.)
West Harlem (125 Ave. – 145 Ave.)
West Harlem has incredible public parks, which are strung along the riverfront defined by Hudson River and Henry Hudson Parkway to the east. However, access to and connectivity between these parks are sparse and fragmented due to a series of elevated traffic infrastructure in between that acts as obstruction, which is further complicated by an existing disparity in jurisdictions of local, state, and federal levels among the parks. Three sites of residual space underneath the existing traffic infrastructure have been selected, to be activated as newly imagined gateways and channels between the parks by the means of visual and performance art. Not only are the residual spaces pulled out of abandonment and underutilization to benefit the nearby neighborhoods, but they would also serve as vehicles for connectivity between the communities and public spaces.

Other 2021 workshops

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Envisioning Climate: A Virtual Reality Workshop
May 17, 2021 – May 28, 2021
Wang other natures 24
Other Natures
Across New York City
May 17, 2021 – May 28, 2021
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Building Biography: A Living Archive of Columbia GSAPP
Across New York City
May 12, 2021 – May 26, 2021
Model Fictions
Across New York City
May 5, 2021 – May 17, 2021
Multigenerational Housing for New York City
Across New York City
May 3, 2021 – May 17, 2021
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Pushing past 2020: Looking for Equitable Solutions to Post Covid New York City
Across New York City
May 3, 2021 – May 17, 2021
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An Atlas of Dust
Across New York City
May 3, 2021 – May 14, 2021
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Streets for People
Across New York City
May 3, 2021 – May 14, 2021