Blog

On Staten Island & Mapping

Last week, the studio students presented their schematic propositions for new housing on Staten Island to a large jury of professionals and professors, inviting critique and feedback on the work as it stands. The overarching theme of the projects was contextualization within the Staten Island community and providing services to new residents. The jurors offered a bevy of comments, focused on integration into the existing community, housing typology, and environmental performance of each proposition.

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Invited jurors and students discuss work

The focus on community integration and the environment had me thinking about the power of mapping, not only as a formal exercise, but as a means to make an argument for certain housing strategies and inclusive living. The students had done a series of mapping activities prior to starting their housing investigations, and the information gleaned began to have an impact on their proposals; but what if those maps came to the forefront of the projects?  James Corner, of Field Operations and High Line fame, wrote “The Agency of Mapping” in 1994, and it has since become a part of the academic literature that many of us have read. Corner argues for a mapping technique that draws out new relationships and opens new social and environmental potentials for design to increase agency within a community, starting with a regional understanding and working down towards the local.

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Population by Race by Glenn Bell & Kiamesha Robinson

 

What new opportunities could this framework unveil for the two Staten Island sites? A refocus on the wider context and environmental concerns on the site could lead to new and exciting discoveries, both for the existing community as well as the new residents for whom housing is being supplied. As the students continue to investigate Staten Island, housing, and the potential for development there, I am excited to see students integrate the jury feedback and strong arguments for an inclusive community on Staten Island’s north shore.

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Stapleton Staten Island by Sarah Ahmad & Mahesh Mistry

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting an interviews conducted with SSA CCNY housing studio Professors Fabian Llonch and June Williamson, as well as a conversation with architectural historian and SSA CCNY Professor Marta Gutman. In addition, students will be contributing short pieces to the blog. Stay tuned for these and other new features!

Cameron Shore, Research Assistant, CR Housing Studio

Workshop Outcomes

Students, professors, and invited guests came together at the Spitzer School’s J Max Bond Center on February 24th to discuss the past, present, and future of housing, building technology, and policies dictating development. Several students made presentations on building technologies, highlighting the resonance of future technologies and past ones; as architects and builders look for new methods and materials, we are continually looking to the past to influence our decisions. Not only does the method of construction influence the way we live, it can also serve as an indicator of contemporary thoughts and practices. It follows that the development of new building practices advances with changes in society.

I thought this point was particularly present in the projects of Mimi Hoang of nArchitects. After Hoang presented Carmel Place, as well as another project in Hong Kong with even smaller units, students and other guests raised the questions of light and air, overall size of living space, and influences on the project. Hoang and her firm spent a lot of energy researching precedents and, alongside New York officials and other architecture firms and non-profits, studying the best means for developing a micro-unit, or under-300 sq. ft. apartment. Co-housing and other social housing projects clearly influenced their work, as they moved towards communal spaces in the lobby-as-dining room, or gym-as-porch. It will be interesting to watch as people continue to live in these new small spaces, to notice their transformation and use over time.

This is exactly what the other invited guests are studying in their work. Kate Dunham’s presentation on her work from the mid-1990s was a fascinating; she looked at single and multi-generational housing across the globe. “Messing,” a term coined by Dunham but derived from the military term for a group of soldiers living and eating together (thus mess hall), seeks to begin an understanding of how groups of people live together with shared spaces, rooms, and lives. As noted later in the conversation, her ideas begin to mesh with Keith Krumwiede’s take on a new vision for suburbanism. What does it begin to look like when we reimagine the single-family home as a continuous structure, serving not a single family but a messing group? Krumwiede’s book Atlas of Another America light-heartedly pokes fun at the North American suburb and dreams of homeownership, but raises important questions along the way. I am looking forward to investigating his work more closely in the future, and seeing how students use his and Kate’s ideas in their studio work.

Karen Kubey’s work on new (or old) forms of city dwelling was actually a part of investigations undertaken for a design challenge sponsored by the Citizens Housing Planning Council (CHPC) with the Architectural League of New York, similar work to that of nArchitects mentioned above. In fact, Hoang said herself that the Museum of the City of New York show Making Room that Karen participated in was used as research for their own micro-unit.

Several final points were made by our guests, which I will discuss further in future posts, but I thought that John Cetra summed up the symposium rather succinctly. He challenged the students to wear their “future glasses” as they begin the next phase of the semester, designing housing on Staten Island. In order to create and build housing that people want and will continue to care for, an aspirational quality is required of everyone involved, looking not just to the issues of today, but also how housing in New York will continue to work over time, simultaneously integrating with community and creating solutions.

Continue to follow along as students descend on Staten Island and begin to better understand what their housing designs can do for the community. Issues, questions, and possible solutions raised in the symposium and studio will be revisited with every design proposal, and written about here each week.

Aggregation

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This past week in studio, the students were focused on housing precedents and creating new conglomerations of housing types. One of the most challenging aspects of designing housing is not necessarily the individual unit, but the way in which you put those units together, either by aggregating units together into a single building design, or by designing the exterior and then fitting units into the envelope. In designs today, we see both methods being undertaken, resulting in drastically different buildings.

In last week’s post I mentioned Karen Kubey’s recent article “How to Judge an Icon: VIA West 57.” This analysis and critique of housing design on the West Side of New York is pertinent in discussing methods of laying out housing units and creating new buildings in an age where every project appears to need to gain iconic status to validate both architect and developer. In the instance of VIA West 57, we see a world famous architect (Bjarke Ingels of BIG) designing an exterior form, and then a local architect being forced to design 178 different units along with 500 foot-long corridors. This is one method, though time will tell us if it truly successful and/or sustainable over the years.

As the students were laying out their preliminary studies in unit aggregation, the difficulties of designing from the inside out become quickly apparent as well. How do these units stack? What about long corridors or tall, narrow exterior courtyards? How will these new designs meet the sidewalk or create outdoor community spaces? Immediately we are faced with an increasing number of questions, from the alignment of units to zoning issues.

I spoke with Billy, a second year MArch student, and he raised many of these questions, specifically focusing on the zoning issues that the project proposes. The semester’s project is to design a mixed-use housing development on Staten Island. Being within NYC, the project will be heavily driven by the complex zoning regulations that dictate so many building forms and uses across the city. Billy’s struggle with zoning and inclusionary housing is an all too common one to architects, city planners, developers and the like in New York. This is made clear in the current zoning exhibition on view at the Museum of the City of New York.

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It is also made clear in the students’ work thus far. We can see the efforts to define program, aggregate housing units, provide access, and create an urban form in their preliminary studies. With the help of precedents, visiting guest presentations, constant critique, and further research, these housing designs for Staten Island’s north shore will take shape, prompting even more questions and investigations. Stay tuned in as we delve into the gritty details of housing in New York.

Cameron Shore, CR Studio Research Assistant

Studio Workshop

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The upcoming studio workshop, “Hous(e)ing: What’s Missing” should prove to be a good conversation involving scholars, students, and practicing architects. Acting as a culmination of the students’ research into current and future housing prototypes and examples, the invited guests will share their current work and enlighten the audience with their views on housing in New York today. The list of speakers includes Karen Kubey, Keith Krumwiede, Kate Dunham, and Mimi Hoang.

Karen Kubey, the former executive director of the Institute for Public Architecture, has been studying, designing, and teaching about public housing and architecture for the past decade and a half. Her most recent article focuses on the public design implications of private housing, questioning how much a private project should and could bring to the surrounding community both physically and monetarily.

Keith Krumwiede, an associate professor and director of graduate architecture programs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has spent his career focused on the American prototypical dwelling, the single family home. His current work, Freedomland: An Architectural Fiction and Its Histories, and book Atlas of Another America, investigate form and place-making within the American town/suburb. His graphical depictions of new forms of housing raise questions about the ideas of homeownership and community building.

Mimi Hoang is a co-founder of nArchitects, a leading architectural firm here in New York. Also a Adjunct Faculty member at Columbia’s GSAPP, she and her design partner have worked on a wide range of projects, from public amphitheaters and ferry terminals to mixed-use buildings and housing here in the city. One of their most recent projects is Carmel Place, a 32-unit building of “micro apartments” in Kipps Bay.

Kate Dunham is on the faculty at Columbia’s GSAPP, focusing on urban design and housing.  Over the past 20 years, she has worked both here and in Asia on developing public space and zoning guidelines, alongside public interest groups and private firms. Her work has continually had a focus on high-density housing in the urban setting.

Please join us in welcoming these guests to our public workshop, to be held at the J. Max Bond Center at CCNY’s Spitzer School of Architecture, 141 Convent Ave, New York, NY on Friday, February 24th from 9am-12:30pm. Gathering with students and professionals alike, I am interested to hear people’s vision for the future of the city, particularly as it relates to housing New Yorkers from all walks of life.  As the City looks to house an influx of 1 million over the next two decades, it becomes more important to have these conversations in preparation, and to look outside of the city limits for successful examples.

Cameron Shore, CR Studio Research Assistant

The Studio Begins: A Visit to CetraRuddy

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We will begin this blog by introducing those involved in the CetraRuddy Design Studio in Housing, an exciting collaboration between the Spitzer School of Architecture (SSA), The City College of New York, and CetraRuddy architects. For the first time at SSA, a studio is being sponsored by a firm, allowing for new opportunities in communication between the academic realm and its professional counterpart.

As an introduction to the studio and a fresh outlook on housing in New York City, the students spent the first day meeting critics June Williamson and Fabian Llonch, both tenured professors at SSA. They then ventured to the studio offices of CetraRuddy to spend time meeting with principles John Cetra and Nancy Ruddy, and Theresa Genovese, hearing their take on housing in New York over the past 30 years of practice. Cetra has just been named a Fellow of the AIA, and pertinently has focused on housing and zoning regulations in their practice. Ruddy then went on to give a presentation of both past and current work taking place in the office, ranging in scale from an eight-story Brooklyn apartment building, to an 800,000 sq. ft. project being developed on Manhattan’s west side, touching on the studio’s interest in developing along the edges of the city’s waterfront. Ruddy specifically called out the edges, saying they were researching ways to increase housing and density along the rivers and shores, working on a high-rise block in the re-zoned area of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as well as working with Crain’s New York Business to propose new ideas on housing another 1 million people over the next 20 years.

 
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The rezoning study, being presented at the AIA Center for Architecture on February 9, focuses on Staten Island as the area with the highest capacity for absorbing new immigrants and transplants to the city, which pairs well with the focus of the Housing Studio: Professors Llonch and Williamson have selected two sites on northern Staten Island to be the setting for the studio’s investigation into housing. At a recent meeting with CetraRuddy, we discussed the importance of examining historical precedents in housing both in terms of typology and technology; each influenced the other as living conditions changed throughout the end of the 19th century and across the 20th. Zoning laws, building technology advancements, and now the increasing importance of the internet and environmental tech will continue to drive housing development and policy in the 21st century; where it will end up cannot even be guessed, though clues to the future can always be found in our past.

 
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Each week, this blog will chronicle the research, investigations, and proposals offered by students, professors, and the community at large as we look for the missing pieces of housing today. Stay tuned for Monday posts that showcase this and more.

Cameron Shore, CR Studio Research Assistant