Students Visualize Urban Change

Rosannah Sandoval & Larissa Begault’s  Fall 2015 studio + seminar “Visualizing Urban Change” had four major themes:

  1. Drawing as a tool for thinking
  2. The City as a space of multiple layers
  3. The Ecological as a means to understand systems
  4. Social Influences that continuously participate in the production of spaces

A key objective was to introduce students to a range of drawing principles, techniques and tools - diagram, axonometric, section, plan, perspective, collage - and simultaneously use representation as a tool to research and reveal the multiple invisible and physical layers that are at play in urban transformation. In the first half of the semester, students investigated a topic of their choice in a defined site boundary, the west side of Manhattan from 30th street to 42nd street. In the second half of the term, the students were grouped into thematic teams based on individual research focus to design an intervention that grew out of their readings. Final projects included: “Subsurface Exposure: Revealing Under Ground Conditions to Spur Above Ground Action,” “Interstitial Occupation and The Vertical Public Realm,” and “Soft Edges, Fluid City.” The proposals are intended as provocations to explore the elements of drawing through an urban investigation that exposes potentials.These projects are featured below.


“Interstitial Occupation and The Vertical Public Realm”

Amelia Clark, Urban Design

Michael (Mika) Toomey, Urban Design

John Kirya, Urban Design

As an alternative to flood prevention techniques of today, the project takes the approach of flood "adaptation" to reinvent the landscape of Manhattan's west side in a much more radical and long-term exploration of the problem at hand. The intervention grows out of a fascination with the site that is characterized by infrastructural and artificial elevated ground planes and the overlap of public and private space. The proposal engages the elements of voyeurism, vertical circulation and vignette - to opportunistically connect and create a new vertical public realm that reclaim interstitial urban space that has been lost at the flooded level.

VUC_3_FA15VUC_4_FA15_FotorVUC_5_FA15_Fotor“Subsurface Exposure: Revealing Under Ground Conditions to Spur Above Ground Action”

Adrian Ko, Environmental Studies

Maya Rosenbaum, Environmental Studies

The intervention leverages three typically hidden/overlooked subjects - utility pipes, subsurface contamination impacts, and building energy usage and exposes them to the public with the intent to spur civic and policy changes above ground through a proposal of underground tunnels “cutting” from east to west across the site exposing underground geology, utility corridors, groundwater  movement, and contamination remediation. By exposing the delivery mechanisms of everyday energy usage and possible subsurfacemigration and remediation of contaminants, the project envisions a more actively engaged community calling for better energy efficiency and a cleaner subsurface environment. This intervention project is not merely designed to encourage people to imagine the city’s underground infrastructure but it seeks to construct the intervention into the very fabric of Manhattan—thereby incorporating awareness of vital subsurface conditions during a period of large-scale redevelopment on the site.


“Soft Edges, Fluid City”

Jozef Soloff, Environmental Studies

Sophia Jose, Integrated Design

Larisa Karamchakova, Urban Design

The project focuses on the fluctuation and hardening of the city's edge over time from a soft biological boundary of a river dune to the hard edge of an industrial port and proposes to restore the west side to a resilient and permeable habitat. The project exposes the site’s history as discovered in Egbert Viele's 1865 Sanitation & Topographical Map - particularly the Great Kills marshes on Manhattan's west side. The map reveals the intent to submerge networks of water systems to make way for the Commissioner's grid and a new infrastructure of Combined Sewer Overflows that were put in place. The intervention explores reversing that process through rewilding the domesticated rivers of Manhattan and mitigate flooding by resurfacing native marsh and estuarine ecosystems to create recreational and educational public space. This is done through a biophilic canal and pier that channel a partially excavated arm of Great Kill and allow the once submerged body of water to flow to the Hudson.