Situated on the West Side Highway in New York City, this mixed-use development challenges the existing sociopolitical hierarchies of the built environment by suggesting a new building typology that reallocates privileged vertical space reserved for the elite, to the general public.
This allows for diverse social connections and programmatic adjacencies which aim to enhance the livelihood and lifestyle of the residents, the surrounding community, and the city at large. These adjacencies mix constituencies and create intersections that might not otherwise occur, fostering social and economic development. The distance between the elite and the general public is collapsed, allowing for diverse interactions in new environments.
New York is a vibrant, diverse city characterized by financial prosperity, but soaring housing costs have priced out many of its residents. Low-income inhabitants of the city’s public housing face particular hardships: their population has grown, poverty has worsened, and social isolation has grown more pronounced while their physical environments have changed little due to a reduction in public housing funds. This has created a situation of economic and social isolation; “the poor in New York have become a self-perpetuating parallel city.” In an attempt to alleviate these conditions, the New York City Housing Authority pursues the economic integration of public housing projects into their communities as a means of fostering social stability and increased incomes.
This immense problem is of particular interest to this proposal because the site is located a block east from a public housing project. The design aims, therefore, to provide amenities which might enhance the social and economic development of its inhabitants: a tower of parks anchors the housing block, connecting private housing and public programming (civic and cultural) while maintaining secure boundaries.
These public parks create opportunities for diverse connections between constituencies, programs, and environments which typically do not occur.
Living in the high-energy, dense urban environment of Manhattan can be grueling, both physically and mentally, over time. Therefore, many city residents often retreat from the city on weekends to second homes that are located in more natural settings. This is a luxury not everyone can afford, but suggests the necessity of an environment which allows inhabitants to escape from rigors of the city. The site’s location on the Highline in Chelsea enhances the opportunity for the project to establish a new relationship to nature.
The design proposes a mixture of program layered in a manner which responds to the scale of the city, neighborhood, and block: Its robust, contemporary street façade provides a strong urban presence in the city while neutralizing climatic variances; this facade gives way to a traditional courtyard façade which allows the dynamic play of sun and wind to act naturally on the housing units.
These two environments provide inhabitants the ability to retreat from the tough urban landscape of New York City each time they enter the block. The living units are designed to provide natural ventilation and flexibly accommodate live work situations and future renovations.