Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quick Start #2

City of Refugees
The Post-Industrial Reinvention of Brooklyn creates a growing urban frontier between the rich and the poor of society. The neoliberal shift of the city created a system of uneven development in the city and this economical model strengthens the exclusion of the urban poor. These people become urban nomads, migrating into the economical least attractive neighborhoods. Economical ghetto’s are forming themselves at the outskirts of Brooklyn. One of these economical ghetto’s of the poor is East New York. The city has always tried to integrate these groups into the urban tissue of Brooklyn with a wide range of initiatives like the zoning laws and public private initiatives but the ideal state of integration has never been found.  A lack of Economical impulses makes that these groups never get out of these isolated situation, and are never allowed to make an economical jump in society. We can question if there still is a place to stay for the economical excluded in the neoliberal city? 

I want to think in a way that social exclusion becomes a strength instead of a weakness for these social groups. By isolating these groups not only physically but also economical, a new way of city organization can emerge. A self sustainable block that doesn’t need the city, only for the influx of it’s inhabitants. Within the walls of this enclave agricultural activity, referring to the historical economy of the area, takes place to be the self sustaining economy of this community. The combined use of landscape and architecture makes an isolated oasis.

The peninsula condition of the site naturally creates a state of isolation. Thinking how to use this condition in a way to address in how far the enclave deals with the larger context of the city is one of the challenges. The other peninsulas of the Jamaica Bay have all used this condition to form social strong local communities, but the Belt Parkway still provides a necessary economical connection with the rest of the city fabric making them commuter towns, suburban car-driven neighborhoods. The economical and ecological sustainability of this type of living ideal is highly questionable, but the associated lifestyle is a very strong identifier. Combining a design of architecture with the design of an economical model can address this situation.

Friday, October 28, 2011


A case study of the Gateway Development in East New York, thinking of global and local...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

Invisible Cities

Architecture is storytelling. A city as a library of different stories that come together in one urban gesture. When we read an talk about a city can we describe cities starting form a white canvas? Or is it always the same and remembered we are looking for?

Marco Polo telling stories to the Kublai Kahn about the cities he has traveled to in the emperors kingdom. Telling stories about cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and design, cities and the dead, hidden cities,...

Source; Italo Calvino, Hidden Cities, Harcourt, Orlando,1974

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Architect In Residence
SUPERFRONT, a company that works in the promotion of contemporary architecture for an interdisciplinary world, supports emerging architects and artists from under-represented social demographics in their Architect-in-Residence program. the program emphasizes experimental and interdisciplinary work within the context of contemporary architecture.
Manuel Avila, an urban and resident of the Crown Heights neighborhood was appointed Architect-in-Residence for Brooklyn with his Crown Heights Participatory Urbanism project.
The project takes landscape urbanism approach to rethink residual spaces adjacent spaces to the Franklin Avenue shuttle train towards a new public space network. The project is founded on the idea of creating a common ground for residents, business ownes, governemental entities and local community organizations for more plural public spaces in the context of a diverse emergent community in the Crown Hill/Crown Heights neighborhood.

Source :


Architecture needs a ground to stand on.  But the ground is not a flat entity, it consist of a wide range of layers. These layers can be physical but also social, economical, political, aesthetic,... A site needs boundaries to be defined. Every layer out of which the site is made up, doesn't necessarily has the same boundary. Sites are a complex network of relationships in which architecture and landscape architecture have to move.

After the paradigms of Modernism, with it's tabula rasa planning and apparent neglecting of the subject site, Why Site Matters tries to bring back to life the discourse on the subject of sites. In a series of essays this discourse tries to focus on three important issues. A first group of essays tries to talk about vocabulary, terms and concepts, the second tries to revisite and rewrite history to measure the degree of importance of site matters in design and a third speaks to the relationship between representation techniques, methods of study and strategic approaches on design. From the concept of owning property as   one of America's basic rights, to the history of site importance in landscape architecture and ecology, a very thorough theory of site matters is reached in this book.

A beautiful photo essay shows a images and commentary which signals the importance of creative work on the discourse of site matters and works as a graphic representation of the matters addressed in the book.

Agnes Denes, Wheatfield - A Confrontation, 1982
Agnes Denes planted two acres of wheat and harvested it on the Battery Park landfill in Manhatten's financial district. A geographical (city/country) and social ( Denes was making a point about world hunger and the exploitation of recources by putting the field next to the financial district) confrontation.

Drex Brooks, Pyramid Lake Battlefield, 1988-1989
In May and June 1860, two battles initiated the Paiute resistance to white invasion of their lands. They were subdued and scattered to reservations, not allowed to return to Pyramid Lake until 1883. The construction of a playground by the descendants of those who died transforms the site of the battles, hope overcoming despair.

Source: Burns Carol J. and Kahn A., Site Matters, Routledge, New York and London, 2005, pp319

Volume, a magazine that identifies itself as an "Independent quarterly for architecture to go beyond itself" recently published an issue devoted in the Internet of Things. They want to address the issue of how architecture acts in a world were everything is getting connected. Does this change architecture? Does this provide new opportunities to design and create? Does it effect the very materiaal architects work with? these are questions in mind.

the City is becoming, an article written by Ben Cerveny, James Burket and Juha van't Zelfde talks about their ideas and actions within the VURB organisation.

VURB, a European framework for policy and design research concerning urban computational systems, investigates how to use networked digital resources to change the way we understand, build and inhabit cities.
They believe that Digital culture can be a way of dealing with the forever changing city and the difficult issue that a cities characteristics and environments that creates its texture and unique life need to be preserved and at the same time the needs of citizens often evolve beyond the purpose and constraints for which the city was constructed.

One project they are currently dealing with is an investigation on the reuse potential of urban vacant space through tools like social media. At the latest Architecture Bienalle in Venice, the Dutch Pavilion already addressed this issue through their exhibition VavantNL, made by Rietveld Landscapes.

VacantNL, Rietveld Landscapes
VacantNL highlights the enormous potential that of empty office space and state-owned property for innovation within the creative knowledge economy. There already exist a tradition of old space that is being reused ( is mentioned in the article). 
VURB tries to "investigate how networked technologies working as a civic service may gather and make visible this unused space which can be used and increase the 'refresh rate' of cities."
The end goal is to build a prototype of a social software program listing the empty buildings in a city. . Citizens will then be able to join this network and express demand for reusing such spaces through voting, discussing, conversing and design tools.
At the VacantNL exhibition this was already beautifully showed by a physical "Placebook".

VacantNL, Placebook, Rietveld Landscape

Source; Cerveny B., Burket J., van t'Zelfde J., "the City is Becoming", "Volume", 2011, issue #2, p 61-65